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Orniainthi

 

 

 

ORNIAINTHI

 

 

T.C. HARRISON

Orniainthi

 

Published by T.C. Harrison at Shakespir

 

Copyright © 2017

 

Cover art design copyright © 2017 by T.C. Harrison

 

All rights reserved.

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it or it was not purchase for your use only, then please return to Shakespir.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This book is available in print at most online retailers.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

 

 

ISBN-13: 9781370464395

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying looking at the surface of the ocean itself, except that when you finally see what goes on underwater, you realize that you’ve been missing the whole point of the ocean. Staying on the surface all the time is like going to the circus and staring at the outside of the tent.”

 

― Dave Barry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I

 

BETRAYAL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

I smiled as I held the picture in my hand. My uncle’s carrying me on top of his head. I’m a baby and we’re in the water at a beach in St. Thomas Virgin Islands. That’s the origin of my mother’s side of the family. The picture’s one of the few I cherish as it’s my first introduction to the sea. I don’t remember that moment but I remember my first dive.

The dive took place at the pool at our apartment complex in Monterrey, California. I don’t remember how old I was, but I was little enough for my spontaneous stunt to scare my mom and get into trouble. 

Every time we headed to the laundromat, we had to pass the pool. When I saw that blue water, something overtook me. Before my mom even noticed, I ran towards the pool and jumped. As my body immersed in the water, a peace came over me. I knew this was where I belonged. But I’m scared, as I didn’t even know how to swim. So it was miracle I reached the surface and got out of the pool.

My mother stood there waiting for me upset and relieved to see I was okay. I don’t remember my punishment but it didn’t keep me away from water. A few years later I took swimming lessons at my private school.  I enjoyed the lessons, and they tightened my watery bond, then I saw The Little Mermaid. This film cemented my love of water forever. 

As I watched the opening scene where the merfolk gathered at the palace, it fascinated me. As the film went on, I didn’t understand why Ariel wanted to leave home and live on land. “Why can’t Prince Eric join her in the sea?” I asked. I didn’t want to be on land where they “work all day.” ‘Under the Sea’ became my first anthem.

My love of the sea aside, I stuck out among my peers. Sure, we lived in California so the beach was always a place everyone visited. Even then, I didn’t belong. I often met people who wouldn’t accept me for who I was. They only welcomed me into their cliques if I wasn’t true to myself and that always infuriated me. But it didn’t stop me or my love for the sea.

As I grew, the sea remained a big part of my life. I visited the Monterrey Bay Aquarium so much that I became an Ocean Advocate member.  A favorite part of the aquarium are the big models of whale species that hang from the ceiling. Staring at these sculptures enhanced my curiosity. I wanted to swim alongside these aquatic animals. In preparation, I took swimming and scuba lessons. I learned how to boogie board, surf, and stand up paddle boarding. Each day I ventured out into the ocean to document my adventures with my waterproof camera. 

The world is a magnificent and mysterious place. Full of wonderment and splendor. It’s a moody environment that’s peaceful and loving in one moment, and angry and unforgiving the next. Seventy percent of our planet’s covered in water. There’s so much to discover, ninety-five percent to be exact. It bothers the heck out of me that most people are more interested in space than in our lovely seas.

Sun Ra once said “Space is the place” but what of our blue hydrosphere? It’s the ocean that drives the weather, regulates temperature, and supports every living organism.  The ocean’s a major food source and has resources needed for medical advancement. It holds the key to life’s origin. And don’t forget the many shipwrecks, volcanoes, and humongous creatures. For me the ocean is the place.

That’s why I’m a biological oceanographer. It’s my job to study plants and animals in their marine environments. I study the development of various marine life. How they relate to one another, and adapt and interact with their environment. My tools and resources are computer models, laboratory experiments, and venturing into the field.  My favorite part of the job. 

I can’t always stay on dry land to do my work. I’ve been on hundreds of dives, and each time I’ve discovered something new.  Dive expeditions are mini adventures. I’m part of a team of scientists who travel to places that most people don’t get to visit. The dives are just amazing, it’s my version of heaven. Sometimes, I wish I could stay there for all eternity.

Unfortunately, a massive panic attack forced me to stay on dry land for eight years…

Despite my love of the ocean, the incident had such a profound impact on me.  I vowed never to enter the water again, but something brought me back and changed my life forever. 

My name is Dr. Viola E. Foy,[* *]and this is the story of how I became Orniainthi, demi-goddess of the sea. 

 

2

 

My transformation started three weeks ago.

My colleague Devin Strucker invited me to join a diving expedition. Our mission is to explore each part of the World Ocean: The Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Southern, and Arctic Oceans.

Devin and I met during our first year at UCLA and became good friends. It was our love of the ocean that brought us together and eventually it would be what tore us apart. After college, Devin moved on to become of the vice presidents of FUCA, while I became a biological oceanographer. Though we went our separate ways Devin and I remained in contact over the years.

 

 

Don’t you have plenty of biologists at the agency?” I inquired of Devin during one of our Skype calls four months ago.

Yes, but they’re not experts in marine aquaculture like you are. We need the best for this expedition.”

I thought the Future Underwater Colonization Agency is in the business of creating underwater colonies.”

Devin shook their head and sighed, “Vee you don’t understand. FUCA wants to be a self-sustaining colony. To be the best in the business we cannot rely on others to do jobs we can do for ourselves.”

And that’s why you need me.” “Correct. We want to have aquafarming in place. One that’s profitable for the environment and our business. Besides it’s been a while since you’ve been out of that messy office of yours and in the water.”

It’s an organized mess.”

Whatever, will you come or not?”

I will. Maybe the waves will reinvigorate me when go beneath them.”

Thanks Vee, this means a great deal. It’ll be fun to explore together again. We haven’t done that in years.”

I know! I’ve stayed in my office for eight years while you lived in the Big Apple. It must be insufferable dealing with those suits who don’t understand the ocean.”

That’s why they hired me. And now you, because we’re the best at what we do.”

“And what we do is very good right?”

“Of course.”

Thanks for asking me Devin.”

Thanks for accepting. We’ll talk more in the next two months okay?”

Okay. Good night.”

Good night.”

 

 

Fast forward to the present, and we’re now getting ready to dive into the deep once again side by side.

It had been four years since my last expedition. After returning to shore, my research kept me inside most of the time. I’m working on creating better ways to farm under water without endangering marine life.

Aquaculture’s the cultivating of freshwater and saltwater fish under controlled conditions. It’s one of the fastest growing industries in agriculture. Aquaculture’s set to increase and account for most of the world’s seafood. The immense growth of aquaculture has caused a major shift in commerce and trade. Traditional “capture” fisheries are becoming obsolete due to overfishing, climate change and pollution. Because of this, there’s a huge demand to find new food resources. Many countries are now relying on startup companies to help produce and replenish seafood.

And that’s where I come in.

Startup companies are creating new techniques to help increase sustainability and yield. It’s my job to make sure these new ways won’t further harm wildlife or create more problems. For the past months, I’ve studied FUCA’s aquaculture techniques. I’ve found them promising solutions for both nature and humanity.

FUCA has a myriad of projects in production. I’ve chose the two I believe will work best. The first is FUCA’s cultivation of jumbo shrimp using super-intensive stacked raceways. This method increases the number of shrimp produced and implementation is possible anywhere. It has a significant low water usage. This method eases the many environmental damages that traditional shrimp farming causes.

FUCA's second project was a land-based closed-loop recirculating aquaculture system. While its land-based it has great potential for underwater colony use. It recycles around 98% of the water. And there's little-to-no discharge back into the environment. Plus, the risk for disease is zero. The technique further minimizes chemical or antibiotics usage. It's conjointly independent from any environment. Farmers can build this fish farm anywhere from any distance from major bodies of water.

FUCA’s improved upon it by making it possible for underwater usage. FUCA valued my work and ability, it’s why the agency requested me for the expedition. They wanted me to help them gain more insight into the ocean and unlock its secrets. In doing so, they hoped I’d choose the best spot for the company’s underwater colony.

Or so I thought. 

While real, these projects only hid the agency’s true motivations for my recruitment. The discovery came later. By then it was much too late.

 

 

Our expedition got off to a rough start due to delays. The first ship we were to use got damaged in an explosion. The repairs couldn’t be finished in time for our scheduled departure. It took another week to find another ship and get the paperwork in order. After three weeks of setbacks, we set sail out of the harbor of the Port of Messina. We were on board a new ship, the Calypso Blue.

 

 

The Calypso Blue’s a 115-foot luxury liveaboard boat. It can accommodate up to 18 passengers in 9 luxury staterooms. Each of which equipped with air-conditioning and private en suite bathroom. There’s a relaxing spacious air conditioned salon and two large decks. One’s for sunbathing, the other diving. The ship’s captain was Captain Ryan Adrienne Pugh. Her and her small crew of eight welcomed our FUCA group of ten people, equipment, and tech.

Our expedition started in the Mediterranean Sea.

The dives there were a success, and we learned more about the Mediterranean’s underwater world. We studied the sea’s early history when it was part of an ancient ocean six million years ago called the Tethys. Another dive explored the submerged cave called the Cova de sa Gleda. It’s off the coast of Mallorca near the Porto Christo. The Cova de sa Gleda is a sinkhole 30 meters wide, 30 meters deep. At the bottom of the cave is the entrance to a vast network of submerged caves.

There, we studied the crystalline deposits that covered the insides of the caves. These formations emulate torchlight and hang from the roof of the cave or rise from the floor. The strange bulbous structures symbolize the changes in the sea level of the Mediterranean.

During our exploration, we came upon fossilized remains of an extinct endemic prehistoric deer, between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago. Evidence of early humans living in the cave from around 2,000 B.C.E. was also discovered and studied. These artifacts excited the team. But what excited me even more was swimming with the monster of the deep, the Bluntnose six gilled shark.

 

These mysterious creatures are akin to their ancient ancestors from 200 million years ago. Unlike most sharks that have five-gill slits, these sharks have six. They have six rows of sharp teeth, white-edged fins, and fluorescent eyes. They can grow up to sixteen feet.

Due to the shark’s extreme depth habitat, not enough information exists on the species. To study these animals, one must either use a submarine or take a dive in one of two places in the world.

One of the places was the Strait of Messina.

Here the upwelling of the sea forces the shark to come nearer to the surface. To get a glimpse, timing must be exact. One must be at the strait in the spring during the new moon for a few hours between tides. Here is where the fish may come up 131 feet to search for food. For not being in their natural habitat, the sharks moved at an incredible speed in a short period.

Our team had excellent timing, and I watched these stunning creatures in action. During my first two dives, I got a glimpse at them. I only saw the drab brown/gray hue that marked their presence. On my third dive at two in the morning, I got a personal meet and greet with the mysterious sharks.

After a twenty-minute wait, two green eyes interrupted the darkness of the water. A six-gilled shark, thirteen feet crossed my path. It glided alongside me and then drifted in the current for a few minutes. I touched the magnificent monster and then said goodbye as I began my ascent to the surface. Searching for and discovering a rare six-gilled shark was an exciting experience. I’ll keep with that memory with me forever.

After spending two extra days in the cradle of civilization it was time to go. We headed to our next destination: The Sea of Atlas, the Atlantic Ocean.

 

Throughout human history, many treks have crossed ‘the pond’. Boats brought enslaved people and immigrants from Europe from the 17th and 18th centuries. Tori Murden, Charles Lindbergh, and Amelia Earhart, made historic crossings by air and sea.

The sea has plenty of natural resources. Fish and marine mammals swim among man-made treasures that sunk to the bottom. The Titanic way up north, and the Lusitania. Torpedoed by a German U-boat, the Lusitania sunk 11 miles off the Old Head of Kinsale.

The Atlantic’s the moodiest part of the world ocean. Powerful hurricanes form here. The ocean’s an integral part of the earth’s weather and how it affects us. The affects would shake the expedition and place my life on a new course.

3

 

The Calypso Blue arrived off the coast of the Bahamas on a calm bright and sunny morning. The crew and team were eating breakfast on the deck and chatting among ourselves. We had developed a good rapport since setting out on our journey.

I surprised myself by how comfortable I was amongst both teams. My social phobia and past panic attack had a severe impact on how I interacted with other people. But the Calypso Blue’s crew and the FUCA team made it easy for me despite my social awkwardness.

The captain ran a tight and efficient ship while Devin did the same with their people. Often the captain and Devin butted heads, but Devin had the final say. Their tension didn’t ruin things for the rest of us though.

After breakfast, we gathered for a meeting to discuss the progress of the expedition. We next planned for the upcoming dive for the day off the Bahamian island of Abacos. After the progressive meeting, Devin and the captain ordered a fun swim for the entire team. It’s what the captain and Devin called a team building exercise of sorts.

The exercise lasted an hour and then lunchtime arrived. We return to the boat and dried off before taking our seats to eat. As we dinned, the Calypso Blue began the trek to Abacos. We descended into one of the world’s many magnificent cave systems, Dan’s Cave. Exploring caves is an exciting way of exploring our planet, but it’s also a dangerous one. Diving in an extreme environment means remaining focused. There isn’t any room for mistakes that’s why we take care in our planning and preparation.

The dive was a success. Without our advanced gear provided by FUCA, our team would get lost in the myriad corridors of the cave. I wouldn’t mind so much if I had an unlimited supply of air. Since we didn’t, we had to rely on our scuba gear and communication with the crew to get us back to the surface. Our face masks showed a map of the cave on each of our screens, like Tony Stark’s helmet. We have no repulsor tech, but our computer’s in Jarvis’ league.

We returned to the ship in time for dinner. My stomach growled nonstop since lunch and I’m relieved to get something to eat. Entering the Calypso Blue’s mess deck, I noticed the ship’s quartermaster Jesse. Nothing escaped her sight on the ship. She sat at the other table but came right over when she saw me take my seat and looked at my plate.

“How can you eat so much doc? If I ate as much as you, I’d be an elephant! I mean look at you, you’re so damn skinny!”

“My metabolism’s high due to Grave’s disease. So I get the munchies often.”

“I wish I had your problem.”

“Ah no you don’t.”

“I don’t?”

“My heart beats fast and if I don’t take my medication a stroke or death are possible outcomes. Graves takes a toll on my mental and physical health. I could get another autoimmune disease, so no Jess, you don’t wish you had my problem.”

“I apologize doc.”

“No worries, lots of folks aren’t aware of the disease. Only one percent of the U.S. population has graves, it’s a rare autoimmune disease.”

“Wow that’s interesting. Again, I’m sorry.” I smiled. “Again no worries. Have you seen Devin?”

“Yes, Devin’s speaking with the captain.”

“Again?”

“Yup.”

“I hope they’re not butting heads. Devin has a strong personality.”

“So does the cap, but no I don’t think they’re arguing. Most likely they’re going over the rest of the expedition stops.”

“We’re heading to the Sea of Cortez right?” “Well… we were but-”

“But what?” Jess looked around and then leaned closer to whisper.

“I not supposed to tell you this, but we’re not done with the Caribbean just yet. There’s a place south of Grand Bahama and north of Cuba called the island of Andros. On that island, is a place called the Black Hole. Few seen it or even heard of it, but that’s where we’re headed.”

The Black Hole is a large isolated column, 154 feet deep and formed by chemical erosion. Its depths replicate ocean conditions from billions of years ago. At 59 feet, there’s a 3.29 feet layer of dark purple toxic bacteria. These bacteria contain high concentrations of hydrogen sulphide. The layer looks so dark it resembles the hole’s floor. It’s a boundary that separates oxygenated water from the oxygen-free water below it. It has similar properties to the earth’s oceans from 3.5 billion years ago.

I responded. “I’m familiar with the place but I never been. Why the secrecy though? The place’s well-known to scientists.”

“The head of FUCA believes the secret of the origin of life is there. He wants the company to be first to discover it.”

I rolled my eyes. “Scientists know that.”

“But are they aware of what FUCA discovered?”

Before I could respond, Devin and the captain entered the cafeteria. As they took their seats, Devin stole one of my dinner rolls and smiled. I deadpanned and said, “So we’re headed to the Black Hole?” Devin looked at the captain who looked at Jess who looked away as she chewed her food.

“Yes, Vee. I figured you learned sooner or later.”

“Why couldn’t you tell me that?”

“It’s classified.”

“Classified? What am I doing here Dev or is that classified too?”

“You’ll find out tomorrow.” I slammed my fist onto the table.

“No I find out now or I’ll get a flight back home tomorrow, your choice.”

Unmoved by my demand, Devin sighed and brushed the brown hair from their eyes. “You haven’t changed Vee.”

“You have! What the hell is with this secrecy? What is FUCA real mission?”

“Finding a better path for humanity. Changing the world for the better.”

“For whose gain?”

“Everyone’s Vee.”

“I don’t believe you.” I rose from my seat.

“This expedition can continue without me. I’m going back to my organized mess. Cap, Jess, it was a pleasure. Goodbye Devin.” As I headed towards the cafeteria’s exit, two guards greeted me while Devin blocked the way I had come. “What the hell is?”

“FUCA is on a mission, one that a prominent scientist as yourself cannot compromise. You will stay here until the mission’s completed and your room will be your jail cell. Guards return Dr. Foy to her room please.”

I yelled, kicked, and cursed but it was to no avail. I found myself in my room only to discover my phone gone. Devin hacked my computer and now monitored it. “Well ain’t this some shit.” I grumbled.

I had no idea.

4

 

Later that evening, Devin arrived at my room with food and a crisp smile. I didn’t smile back.

“Who are you? What happened to the Devin I used to know?”

“I’m the same person but I see the endgame now.”

“And what’s that?”

“Every so often, the world goes into a heightened state of chaos. And groups influence the occurrence.”

“Let me guess, FUCA’s one of them?”

“Correct.”

“What’s the real reason we’re here? The Black Hole’s a scientific site, not a business one. The hole’s rarely disturbed because its conditions are unique. That’s why it’s restricted, apparently.”

“FUCA isn’t just a business it’s a scientific company which employs scientists. We have unlimited access because one of the best scientists in the world working for us.”

“Me.”

Devin grinned. “Correct. We’re here to discover the origin of life on earth. Humanity’s ancestors came from the sea. The Black Hole’s conditions resemble the earth’s oceans billions of years ago. By exploring the Black Hole, we will be able to replicate that origin and much more.”

“So FUCA’s underwater colonization is a ploy to deceive the public.” “

No, we’re dedicated to underwater colonization. We’re determined to create a new world order under water and bring longstanding peace.”

“That’s a big goal.”

“FUCA’s a big company that’s up to the task.” I shook my head in disgust.

“So aside from getting unlimited access why else do you need me for?”

“We want you to study this specimen to see how we can survive in extreme underwater environments.”

“When are we diving?”

“You’ll be diving alone.”

“The hell I am.”

“Our robot will allow you to stay below for four hours.”

“This isn’t a regular dive, we’re both aware the conditions are toxic. I’m not doing it.”

“You will or we’ll discredit your work. You’ve got nothing besides it. No living relatives. Being a recluse has kept you from making lasting friendships. As a result, you only have acquaintances who don’t notice your absence and only contact you when they need something and or have run out of options. There won’t be anywhere to turn. Your life will be miserable.”

“What if I die?”

“Then you died giving your life to our cause. FUCA will create a memorial and scholarship fund in your honor that will help many around the world.”

“How noble.”

Devin shook their head at me. “The snark is strong in this one.”

“Damn right, I’m screwed either way. It’s not fair.”

“Life’s not fair.”

Angry, I pointed my finger Devin and spat. “You’ve put me in a shitty position Devin.”

“You’re wrong on that Vee. Besides, it could always be worse. Grateful is what you should be. FUCA’s tech is at your disposal and unlimited access to one of the world’s unique sites. Stop bitching and get to work.”

I huffed. “Fine, I’ll do your dirty work Devin. Understand this: we’re not friends, not anymore.”

Devin bowed their head and let out a sigh. They had always been good at hiding their personal feelings. Devin was methodical and focused on the task at hand. There wasn’t time for empathy. “You’ll dive at 10 a.m. tomorrow. Everything you need is on your computer and in the FUCA handbook on your desk.”

“Aye, aye, sir! AYE JIMBOY ARAGHHH!”

“Snark’s on fleek today.”

“Good night Devin.”

“Good night Viola.” As Devin exited my room, our friendship left too, ceasing to exist forever.

5

 

At 5 a.m., I awoke to the song of a humpback whale. The ballad’s a graceful yet sorrowful melody, reminiscent of yesterday’s revelations. I’m now alone with no one having my back. In spite of my predicament, I won’t give up and surrender, I had to fight back. But how? I’m in the clutches of one of the world’s most powerful organizations. I’m a prominent oceanographer who in the entirety of things is just a mere speck of dust. But even they have purpose. I just needed to figure out what mine is.

I’m no superhero. What can I do?

I needed to devise a plan. Right now I needed to focus on the task at hand. But what will happen to me when it’s completed? From the vast information I studied last night, I learned FUCA handed out hush money. When I’m finished here, they’ll fly me back home to work on my other projects. Under their watchful eye of course, never to be free of their grasp. If I even attempted to speak out, I destroy my work and myself. “Dammit Devin, what have you gotten me into?” I grumbled.

The answer soon came.

Distraught over last night’s events, I trekked to the galley earlier than usual. I brought my breakfast back to my room. As I ate, I continued to go over the classified FUCA documents. What I learned was disheartening, but not surprising.

FUCA mission statement reads Exploring the Hidden Depths of the Ocean To Create A Better World. To carry out this goal the company had infiltrated various areas of society. FUCA’s employees and donors came from government, business, religious institutions and the STEM fields. The company recruited only the best from within them.

I’m familiar with many names on the lists, particularly those in my field. I’m not surprised to see a few colleagues’ names, given their inscrutable reputations. The web that FUCA wove, is what stunned me. I’m unsure how far the deception goes. The company’s teeth embedded deep. No wonder FUCA’s mascot’s a great white shark.

As for the company’s CEO, Wendell Normand Galloway, the files didn’t have much information. Though what I read intrigued me. The files only contained info on his family history and how he started FUCA.

 

 

Galloway came from a long family line of successful investors, scientists, and engineers. The family viewed success vital to achieving their goals. Failure’s not a choice. You either succeed or die trying. Many Galloways succeeded in their endeavors while other Galloways failed. In their attempts to overcome their failure, they descended into madness. The family has a deep history of mental illness one they try to keep secret from the prying eyes of the public. Instead they push their successes into the spotlight.

An interesting way they instill success in the family is through a test. It’s a tradition passed from one generation to the next. The test’s inspired by the two parables that Jesus taught his disciples.

At the age of eighteen, parents give a ‘small loan’ of four million dollars to their children. Within a year’s time, he or she must invest the money and double the number given to them. If they succeed, they receive their trust fund when they’re twenty-one. If they fail, he or she must wait an extra five years before having access to their funds.

Because it’s ingrained in them to chase success, those who fail the first time often choose to retake it. They make this choice knowing that if they fail again, they add another five years to their wait time. The majority don’t fail again though exceptions do exist.

These Galloways are the ones who go mad trying to reach their goals. One such family member retook the test and failed. In their quest for success, they kept retaking the test, failing each time. They went mad and died penniless. Their name’s wiped out of the family’s history but not the lesson. No sacrifice, no victory.

When he turned eighteen, Wendell received his small loan from his parents. Both of whom had succeeded on their first try. Wendell invested his money, attempting to double its value. He failed twice before succeeding on the third try FUCA came into existence. He received his money when he turned thirty-one.

According to the files after founding FUCA, something changed in Wendell. He became obsessed with ocean exploration and learning the secrets of the origin of life. He put his entire energy into his company. Wendell never married, he stopped fraternizing with friends and family. Six years ago, he stopped making public appearances, not even attending his sister’s wedding. The two were close. Wendell became well-known for his eccentric behavior and reclusive lifestyle. The cause of which was mysterious that Wendell knows and has kept private. He’s told only one person, his spokesperson and personal assistant Kellie Wade.

 

 

In spite of his reclusiveness, Wendell remains in control of his company. But from studying the files Devin gave me, something tells me that a power grab was in the works. This expedition’s recorded in FUCA’s computers. But the detour to the Black Hole isn’t mentioned anywhere, not even the private servers.

I grabbed a notepad and a purple pen and scribbled a few notes.

What’s Devin’s plan?

Is Wendell not in charge?

Has Kellie Wade replaced Wendell?

Purpose of Black Hole? Origin of life? Ancient Ocean.

Origin of Wendell’s mysterious illness?

I took a deep breath and stared at the clock. It was 7:30, two hours and a half away from the dive. I needed to get prepared. My questions had to wait until I returned… if I returned. I placed the remaining files back into the organized messes I had made on my desk and headed out to the ship’s deck. Fresh air, mediation and yoga exercises were what I needed to get focused.

As I breathed in the salty air and mediated while posing a calm came over me. I cleared my mind of everything I had read in the past hours. My focus turned to the dive. In the hole I’d be alone, with only an FUCA robot at my side for four hours. I couldn’t trust Devin and I’m not sure if I can trust the crew. I didn’t understand how they fit into this. Were they loyal to Devin or to FUCA? Or were they hired for the job, unaware of FUCA’s and Devin’s plans? The way Devin and the captain bickered made me wonder if I could use it to my convenience… but now wasn’t the time. I had to prepare for the big dive.

I practiced the breathing and mindfulness techniques I’ve learned to refocus. For thirty minutes I did yoga on the deck of the ship undisturbed with the wind and the smell of the sea my only company. Refreshed and renewed, I reclined on the deck and watched the sea birds soar.

And then a shadow invaded my personal Tahiti.

“Hello sunshine.” The shadow said.

“Devin.” I replied.

“Today’s the big day. You ready?”

“As ready I as I’ll ever be.”

“Good. This dive is vital to FUCA’s mission.”

“Is it? That’s interesting considering it’s not in any of the files you gave me.” A grin appeared on Devin’s face. “Can’t get things past you huh?”

“Lots of things have gotten past me on this trip Devin. What’s the real story here? Are you working for FUCA or yourself? Is this a takeover of the company? What’s the endgame?”

A frown replaced Devin’s grin. “The endgame… there’s so many secrets. If only you knew…”

“Then tell me. What’s the real reason I’m diving?”

“Right now the reason isn’t important.”

“I got to trust you huh?”

“Yes.”

“Well I don’t.”

“You got no choice.”

We stared at each other for a few minutes until the captain marched onto the deck. “You guys ready? The teams waiting for ya.” Devin glanced at me.

“Captain, does this unexpected course take us off schedule?” I asked.

“Vee…” Devin hissed.

“Why yes it does.” The captain retorted. “And I explained that to your boss.”

“And I explained FUCA’s paying you an enormous sum, no questions asked.”

“And we’ve done that. But going to the Black Hole causes problems for us.”

“That will be the least of your worries if you don’t cooperate. Besides FUCA can help you with the problem.”

The captain shook her head. “Yeah… we’ve seen what your help brings.”

Exasperated, I said “Let’s get this damn thing over with.” So the captain wasn’t aligned with FUCA or Devin. In fact, it didn’t appear that she’s aware of Devin’s plans, except that it put us off schedule. Maybe there was room for me to poke around… Walking back inside, a plan began to develop in my head.

But it was too late.

6

When I was six years old, I remember going on a field trip to a local garden. The garden had a wishing well and my schoolmates and I lined up to make a wish. I gave up my space in the front and moved to the end of the line. I wanted to have more time. My grandma once told me that the well’s guardian grants a person’s wish based on how the coin lands. If the coin landed on heads, the guardian grants the person wish. When coin landed on tails, the guardian didn’t grant the wish. By going last, I’d know how my coin landed.

When my turn came, the rest of the kids had gone off to explore the other areas of the garden. I checked for any potential interruptions and tossed my coin into the well. With my eyes closed, I whispered my wish. “I wish to have gills so I can swim in the sea, without ever having to come up for air unless I wanted.”

With one eye opened I peeked into the well, searching for where my coin landed. It had a purple mark sketched on it that differentiated it from the other myriad of coins in the well. I had found it while picnicking at the beach with my family on a Sunday afternoon. I spotted it lying somewhat apart from the big batches of coins. It had landed on heads! Overwhelmed with joy, I clapped my hands together and squealed with delight. “Thank you, guardian of the well.”

That was twenty-eight years ago…

 

 

“Dr. Foy… Dr. Foy.”

“Huh?” My eyes blinked as they came back into focus as the noises of the helicopter stirred me back from my memory. The Black Hole is only accessible via helicopter. Facing me was the head of FUCA’s Technological Research and Development Division, Maxwell Conrad. He’s Devin’s right-hand man on the expedition. Whether he knew of Devin’s plans was still a mystery.

“Are still you with us?” He asked me.

“Yes, sorry. I was remembering a childhood memory.”

“Ah, the sea of memories.” Maxwell nodded. “When you’re out here for a while, the past has a way of returning.” He glanced out towards the ocean for a moment.

A memory might have overtaken him if Devin hadn’t interrupted. They sat right next to Maxwell. “Maxwell, please continue, we have a schedule to keep.” To the right of me Captain Ryan scoffed as Devin gave her the evil eye.

Maxwell pointed to his tablet screen. “Of course. Dr. Foy we’ve got you the best diving equipment that FUCA’s created. The electrical regulator received an upgrade. Your new exposure suit and gloves have electrical padding lined throughout. The suit reads your body’s temperature. As you expand energy, the suit stays cool. If you’re sitting still, or if the temperature of your skin drops, the suit turns on to keep you warm. The suit’s accompanied by a BC that adjusts to support neutral buoyancy. It’ll adjust and shut off during your ascent to the surface.”

“Your dive computer watch will give you with a virtual readout for your HUD on your diving mask. It’ll relay information to you and us. You’ll use FUCA’s innovative underwater breathing apparatus. It’s not only light-weight but will give you with air for two hours.”

“Wait a minute, Devin said I’d be in the hole for four hours.”

Maxwell’s stunned. “Oh? Well I’m-”

“That’s where the automated buddy comes in, right Maxwell?” Devin interrupted. “But it hasn’t-”

“This is a perfect opportunity to watch the Hydro Mechanism Swimmer in action, right?” For a minute, confusion remained on Maxwell’s face. He regained his composure and returned to the topic.

“That’s correct. Our HMS-2 is there to be your backup and record your dive. It’ll aid by providing more air, up to two more hours. Aside from being a diver propulsion vehicle, it’ll give efficient navigation and digital communication. HMS-2 has acoustic devices that scatter to spots within a dive range. The devices act as electronic breadcrumbs. They help you find your way and that’s vital when visibility’s zero. During your dive, you’ll bounce a signal of the markers to fix your location.”

“That’s good to hear. How are we dealing with decompression issues?”

Maxwell swiped left on his tablet. The screen showed a blue pill. “Once you’ve returned, you’ll take this pill.”

A pill?

That didn’t set right with me. A pill could cause me problems. “What’s the purpose of the pill?”

“Well it neutralizes nitrogen in the bloodstream via nanotechnology. The nanobots in the pill bond to the nitrogen, preventing from forming bubbles. The bots will make the nitrogen a harmless compound that’s excreted through the body.”

“That’s the only thing it’s designed to do?”

“Why yes, we’ve used it on earlier dives and had no problems.”

“Okay.”

“Well that covers everything. Any questions?”

Yes, I have many.

Devin stared at me, their eyes daring me to do something. It wasn’t the time. “No.” I replied.

Maxwell smiled. “Then we’re ready to go. I’ve wanted to work with you for a long time now Dr. Foy. I’m glad you agreed to come on the expedition.”

I grinned. “Me too.”

“We’re ready to land.” The pilot replied from the cockpit. “Hold on it’ll be a rough one.”

I glanced out the window and saw the black hole and the land that surrounded it. Impressed by its size, I focused on the window while holding on to dear life. After the rough landing, we climbed out the helicopter and gathered our bearings.

The Black Hole’s a perfect round sinkhole. It’s created by rainwater gathering on the surface that sunk deeper. As the rainwater poured downwards, bacteria that produced acid as waste colonized the water. The acid dissolved the limestone creating a perfect circle that goes 164 feet deep into the earth. The ground surrounding the hole is a soggy, salty, hostile environment. There’s the Yorkshire limestone landscape which makes up the hole. The edges around the hole are razor-sharp. Surrounding the hole was a mangrove swamp, and many flowering poisonwood trees.

We only had 15 minutes to assemble the gear and equipment we needed. Devin informed us that we only had three days to complete our expedition of the Black Hole for three days. Devin and Captain Ryan walked around and decided where each of us could set up our gear and a campsite for our team.

After taking pictures and recording observations, preparations for the dive began. Maxwell ran final tests on the equipment and the HMS. He then had a brief and tense conversation with Devin that the rest of us weren’t privy to.

When he returned, Maxwell placed the HMS-2 in the water while I put on my dive suit. “The robot moves on its own, but should any problems arise, we can use manual controls.”

“I trust you Maxwell.”

“Thanks, you can call me Max. Good luck Dr. Foy.” “Thanks, you can call me Vee.”

And with that I dived in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“[I’m always happy when I’m surrounded by water, I think I’m a Mermaid or I was a mermaid.
__
_The ocean makes me feel really small and it makes me put my whole life into perspective… it humbles you and makes you feel almost like you’ve been baptized. I feel born again when I get out of the ocean.” _]

[
―[* *]]Beyoncé Knowles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

II

 

TRANSFORMATION

7

 

Nothing akin to the Black Hole exists anywhere else on earth. That alone makes it a great diving trip. The fact that I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience excited me. Sure it came under shady and deceptive motives. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that part of me thrilled to explore a place where the ancient ocean still resided. It was the dive of a lifetime.

And it changed my life.

From the files, I learned the hole’s around 164 feet deep. At 59 feet a peculiar layer that divides the top and bottom waters, isolating them from each other. I’m to dive through the layer and discover what’s on the other side.

When I dived in, the water was familiar: cool, distinct, and green-tinted. Similar to one of the many freshwater dives I’ve done. With only the droid along for the descent, we cascaded the hole via a steep rock. At 59 feet, the HMS-2 signaled both me and my team on the surface that I had reached the strange layer.

The layer appeared as a muddy bottom and moved in thick clouds. I slowed to study it and detected the increase in water temperature. It was hot, not Jacuzzi hot, but unsafe hot. Within seconds visibility when to zero and the HMS-2 beeped, notifying me of my location. I appreciated having the robot by my side and I held onto it with both hands.

“How you doing Vee?”

“I’m okay. The water’s abnormally hot and I can’t see. I’m holding on to the HMS-2.”

“Good.”

“Hey Max.”

“Hey Vee. You can either hold on to the robot or stay within its sphere so it can help with visibility.”

“Will do. Phew! What a horrible stench, like rotten eggs.”

“That’s interesting, usually you can’t smell underwater.”

“Well I can, it’s overwhelming man. The stench’s coming through my sinuses.”

“Your skin’s absorbed the bacteria, you’re permeated with chemicals.”

“That’s both fascinating and gross.” Max laughed. “So this layer’s made of hydrogen sulphide. You ready to go deeper?”

“Do I have a choice Dev?”

“I don’t want to lose one of the best scientists, so yes you do have a choice. If things get unsafe-”

“You mean anymore unsafe. I’m unaware of the toxicity of this layer.” Devin sighed. “Keep us informed and we’ll get you topside.”

“Right, let’s keep moving. To the next layer Hemidall!”

“Whose Hemidall?”

“The droid, I’ve decided to give it a name.”

“You understand you can’t keep it Vee.” Hemidall beeped. “See Devin? It likes me.”

Max laughed yet again. He stopped, most likely due to Devin giving him a glare. They sighed again. “God Vee, you’re such a nerd.”

“Indeed, I’m filled with glorious purpose.” Devin uttered a snicker before returning to their businesslike tone. “Keep it moving Vee.”

The next layer was a blood-red roughly purple in color, smellier than the first. I cursed. “This reeks, I’m never going to get it out of my body!” The toxic gas started irritating my skin. I felt stinging, itching sensations sweeping my body. My team monitored the probable dangerous setting.

“You want to come up Vee?”

“Well, I…” I’m in an unsafe position, yet I wanted to go deeper. I sensed as if something-no someone beckoned me…

As a scientist I couldn’t let this opportunity slip away from me. I’m in the thick of it, so might as well continue. “Nah, I’m good Devin.” Hemidall beeped, and we continued our descent into the deep black hole.

At 72 feet, Hemidall and I emerged from the strange layer. What greeted us was the familiar black water featured in earlier cave dives. I glanced up to see the strange red-purple layer that we had pierced. The rest of the ‘ceiling’ was black with bright green holes. “Hemidall, I hope you’re taking pictures of this.” The robot reassured me as they beeped.

No longer hot, the water’s temperature dropped and my exposure suit began to warm. It was pitch black no sunlight was getting through thanks to the bacteria mat. Our readings picked up no oxygen in the water.

We were in the ancient ocean.

“We made it Hemidall.”

“Amazing isn’t it?”

“Guys, I’ve been on hundreds of dives. I’ve never seen a marine environment such as this anywhere else in the world. This is how the entire world ocean appeared 3.5 billion years ago! It’s such a hostile environment. Without sunlight, little life can thrive here. We’ve gone back in time, to a toxic lifeless void. Where only red-purple jelly-like bacteria can live.”

“Keep taking readings Vee, we’ll continue to keep track of your progress.”

“Okay.”

With our readings completed, it was time to return to the surface. “Max, we’re returning to the surface.”

“Roger that Vee.”

“Before you do, there’s one more thing that needs completing.”

“Devin, we conducted enough readings. What more do you want?”

“I need you to release a probe.”

“Wait what?” Maxwell remarked.

“I wasn’t informed of any probe Devin.”

“It’s classified intel Max.”

“Of course. And its Maxwell.” Hemidall beeped, updating the supply of air that I had left. My air supply’s depleted, and I didn’t have time for the team to engage in an argument.

“What’s the point of the probe?” I demanded.

“It’ll survey the hole, take samples and record readings for us.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea. We should leave the hole the same as how we came to it.”

“But since Vee and Hemidall dived, the hole no longer remains untouched. The probe won’t have an enormous effect.”

“But what-”

“Maxwell, I’m in charge of this expedition.”

“And it’s my job to be a principal adviser to you.”

“It’s your job to carry out my orders to the letter. I’ve consider your advice and I’m ordering you to assist Vee and the HMS-2 in releasing the probe.” Devin wasn’t having it. This was serious business.

Hemidall beeped again, notifying us once again the state of my air supply. “Uh guys?” I called.

I heard Maxwell sigh before he replied. “Alright, but let the record show I don’t agree.”

“Noted. Now Mr. Conrad, the probe if you please. We don’t have much time.”

“Alright Dr. Strucker. V, Hemidall. Prepare for probe release.”

“What do we have to do?”

“I’m sending Hemidall the instructions for creating a probe using the nanotechnology. Vee, Dr. Strucker will provide you with a code. You’ll enter it on your dive computer watch which will release the probe.”

“Will this take long? Not sure if you’re aware, but my air’s running low.”

“Nope. Hemidall’s constructing the probe as we speak.”

Beep!

“Dr. Foy prepare to enter the code.” In the darkness, the screen of my dive computer watch glowed. “Ready.”

“616-11-X-23-52.”

With the code entered, Hemidall’s side door opened. A mini probe the size of a tennis ball exited and began to scan its surroundings. “Probe’s released. Time to return to the surface.” At once, Hemidall sounded an alarm.

“What’s wrong Hemidall? Max? Devin? What’s setting Hemidall off?”

“Vee return to the surface as fast you can.”

“Max what’s going on?”

“The probe’s going to explode.”

8

 

“Explode?”

“You have little time, grab Hemidall and get to the surface as fast you can!”

“You heard him Hemidall, let’s go!” I held on to the droid as it sped us upwards. “How much time’s left?”

“Less than a minute.”

“Great. How did this happen?”

“I’m not sure, I’m running a diagnostic now.”

“Can you slow the countdown?”

“I can try…”

“We’re entering the strange layer Max, hurry.” “

I’m on it. Calculating… okay! I’ve got it! The clock’s slowing, hurry!”

Hemidall moved through the red-purple part of the strange layer as quick as its motor allowed. But something happened.

“Max! Something’s got me. It’s pulling us-Max!”

“V! There’s static in the coms. An interference. Repeat what you said.”

“Something’s got a hold off me, pulling me back beneath the strange layer. I-” Communications offline read my screen. “Max! Devin! Does anybody read?” Garbled sounds came through the receiver. “Shit!”

Hemidall beeped. “Keep trying buddy. I’m not sure what’s grabbing me and my air’s-”

Beep! Beep! Beep! The robot beeped in alarm, but it was too late. The explosion engulfed us.

I blacked out for a moment and then an immense stinging, sensation swept through my entire body. My bones bent and cracked, I sensed the bacteria seeping into my skin. It blinded my eyes and the awful aroma engulfed me. Before things turned dark, a voice spoke.

I granted your wish.

 

 

“What the hell happened?”

“The probe exploded. I told them HMS wasn’t ready, Dr. Strucker didn’t listen.”

“Is she dead?”

“No, she’s on life support. If she wakes her life… it won’t be the same.”

“What is she now?”

“I… I’m not sure.”

 

 

In the past three days, Nurse Adele Maxine Hughes had less than five hours of sleep. Dr. Devin Strucker’s orders didn’t allow for rest. An accident placed one member of the expedition in immediate danger.

It took six hours of surgery to stabilize the patient. Afterwards it was Nurse Hughes job to track their recovery. Hughes’ work brought her many interesting things. But nothing extreme as what happened to her patient. It was a miraculous thing to behold, and the first person to learn of it was Hughes’ boss Dr. Strucker. At 6:45 pm, Dr. Strucker entered the makeshift medical lab demanding results.

“Status report.”

“Patient remains in induced coma in the hyperbolic chamber. They’re recovering well, scaring’s minute. The body has gone through an incredible transformation. It’s adapted to live and thrive in the harshest underwater environments. If our hypothesis is correct, the patient will survive underwater for indefinite periods!”

“Explain.”

“Why the patient now possesses an amphibious physiology, perfect for extreme undersea pressures. They now have webbed hands and feet. Patient’s developed gill slits that allow for breathing underwater. Gills are on the sides of their neck they open and close. They’re discrete and unnoticeable.”

“Can the patient breathe our air still?”

“Yes.”

“Please continue.”

“Patient now has a superhuman physique. It enables their lungs to work in the immense pressure and glacial temperature.”

“Incredible!”

“Their strength, speed, agility, durability, and longevity increased in capacity. Their vision has developed allowing them to see in the murky depths of the ocean.”

The doctor clasped their hands and grinned. “This is excellent news Nurse Hughes.”

“There’s one more thing to report Dr. Strucker.”

“Please,” the doctor gestured.

“Our observations noted that the patient possesses a telepathic rapport. We’re unable to measure how strong the rapport is. We can’t discern if the ability effects most forms of marine life or any being that evolved from it.”

Dr. Strucker approached the glass chamber that held the patient. They placed one hand upon the chamber and whispered. “Soon you’ll be ready.”

Turning to Nurse Hughes, the doctor said. “Continue to check the patient’s progress. Report any changes in their status at once.”

“Yes doctor.”

“The patient is to stay under lock and key. Restrict access to the few on the list. If Ms. Wade calls, tell me straightaway.”

“Yes doctor.”

Before exiting, Dr. Strucker turned took on last glance at the patient. “The plan’s coming together.”

 

 

After what was an eternity, I opened my eyes and found myself forever transformed.

 

 

9

 

As I struggled to wake up, a flood of voices entered my mind.

I granted your wish.

Status report.

She’ll never be the same.

Patient’s transformed.

The plan’s coming together.

Webbed feet and hands.

HMS wasn’t ready, I told them.

Gill slits.

I wish to have gills so I can swim in the sea…

Patient’s transformed

The plan-

Transformation

Without, ever having to come up for air unless I wanted

Your wish

The plan

Transformation

Your wish, you wish, your wish, your wish…. wish….

“Aah!” The voices jolted me awake. I found myself encased in a tubal watery prison.

“It’s okay Dr. Foy. You’re safe.” Nurse Hughes greeted me.

“Where am I?”

“You’re in the medical lab on the Calypso Blue, there was an accident.” “How long have I been here?”

“Six days. Do you remember what happened?”

The vivid memories swept over me, and I remembered diving into the Black Hole with the HMS-2.

The robot, I named it Hemidall. I remember the strange layer and the stinky aromas that overwhelmed me. Then there was reaching the ancient ocean that lay beneath it…

Devin and Max’s disagreement over leaving behind a probe… and the explosion. Something had grabbed me and attempted to pull me back beneath the strange layer. And then the voice. It was an ominous one which said “I granted your wish.”

But what did that mean?

“Dr. Foy? Dr. Foy, do you remember what happened?” I brought myself to attention as the memories fluttered away.

“Yes, I do. There was an explosion and-”

Should I mention the voice? Other memories flooded my mind, these were brief but distinct in their existence. Something or someone had caused the explosion which triggered a change in my body. I’m transformed, and I didn’t recognize who the benefactor was. I played dumb and didn’t let on how much I remembered.

“And?”

“I can’t recall.”

Nurse Hughes attempted to reassure me with her smile. “Don’t worry, it’ll come back in time.” Nurse Hughes’ an excellent patient advocate. But she’s likewise one of the few people at FUCA whom Devin listened and sought advice. In return, Nurse Hughes was loyal to Devin. I couldn’t trust her, so I had to keep her at arm’s length.

“What happened to Hemidall?” I didn’t remember my droid buddy. I hoped it survived the explosion. Nurse Hughes shook her head, drowning my prospect.

“I’m sorry HMS-2 didn’t make it.”

“Aww man. Poor Hemidall. That droid saved my life.”

“That’s why FUCA builds them for, to help divers. Hemidall was a good droid. You know Mr. Conrad built the HMS-2 himself.” Max… I remember him saying something in regards to the droid not being ready…

Looking over my hands and feet, I noticed a distinction. While they still appeared normal, webbing’s placed between each digit. It’s well hidden, so it doesn’t stick out. My hands brushed over the new gills on my neck. My hair was long-the longest it had ever been-waist length and kinky. Its main color remained black but now with streaks of red and purple. Other than these three things, I hadn’t gone through a drastic change… at least that’s what I hoped.

Placing both of my hands upon my tubed prison, I remarked, “I see I’ve undergone a few changes.” Nurse Hughes nodded in agreement.

“You have. A transformation took place.”

“Is this due to the explosion?”

“We believe an interaction with the explosion and the strange layer to be the culprit.” “Is the transformation permanent?”

“Yes, we’re not sure if we could create a cure.”

“Has Devin assigned anyone for the task?”

“Not yet. We’re trying to learn more of what’s happened to you and what if any further risks of change will be.”

Why am I not surprised?

“Nurse Hughes, level with me. What are the chances a cure’s found?”

She took a deep breath before replying. “Dr. Foy, we’re not focusing on developing a cure. We have other priorities.”

“And what are they?”

“At the moment, that’s for us to know and for you to find out when it’s time.”

“So I’m a prisoner here.”

“You are not a prisoner, Dr. Foy. You’re a patient who’s infected with an unknown virus. As a result, you’ll remain in quarantine.”

“For how long?”

“Until it’s explicit you won’t contaminate anyone else.”

“Why not find a cure? What’s the reason?”

“I’ve got my orders.”

“You don’t have to follow them Nurse Hughes.”

“Dr. Strucker’s my boss and has listened and heeded my advice time and again. I trust them and the course of action they’ve taken.” The nurse acknowledged in a serious tone.

Great, just great.

I couldn’t change her mind she was deep in Devin’s pocket. But for what purpose? “So I’m a prisoner?”

“If that’s how you see it, then so be it.”

“So be it. I want to speak to your boss.”

“I’m glad because we’ve got a lot to discuss.” Devin remarked as they entered the lab with Maxwell in tow.

 

 

10

 

I glared at Devin and Max. Devin ignored my stare while Max appeared remorseful. “I demand the full story Devin. You guys knew this would happen, didn’t you?”

“I didn’t know Vee, honest.” Maxwell blurted out.

“I don’t believe you. How can I be sure you’re not aligned with Devin?” I shouted.

“Because just like you, I don’t have a choice!”

Poor guy.

At the start of the trip, Max showed me a picture of his family. He came from a single parent household of six kids, raised by his mother and grandmother. Being the eldest, his family depended on him. If he rebelled, who knows what consequences he faced. I wondered how deep into the rabbit hole he had fallen.

“I’m sorry Max.”

“Me too Vee, me too.”

“Let’s get down to business.” Devin interrupted. My body seethed with rage as I stared at my former friend.

“It’s always business with you isn’t Devin? You have changed since college.”

“I’ve learned a new way, Vee. And you will too. You all will.”

“Tell me everything Devin. Leave nothing out, start at the beginning. What’s the endgame? How does Galloway and Kellie fit into this?” Devin grabbed a chair and scurried up to face me in my watery prison.

“The answer lies within the ocean. That’s where life began and will end, thanks to climate change. I find it so ironic, but I digress… You recall from the files Galloway’s obsession with the ocean. He wanted to learn the origin of life. Six years ago he retreated from public life, appointing Kellie Wade as his spokesperson…”

Devin shook their fist in the air as anger filled their body. It was the first time in years I’ve seen them emotional. Devin’s often in control of their emotions. They’re logical akin to the fictional Vulcans of Star Trek lore.

“I’m supposed to take Galloway’s place, and that bitch came in and charmed him, how I’m not sure. She’s his whisperer, she’s got Galloway’s ear. At any rate why did Galloway leave the public eye? His obsession and his mysterious ailment.”

“And what’s his sickness?” I inquired.

Devin chuckled and soon burst into an outright maniac laughter. Nurse Hughes placed her arms on Devin’s shoulders. “Get a hold of yourself Dr. Strucker.”

“Devin are you okay?”

“The doctor has gotten no rest they’ve been up for thirty-six hours.”

The last of the chuckles faded and Devin returned to their logical self. “I’m fine Vee. The stress of this often gets to be too much, but I resist.”

“Of what?”

“The plan for the future. Let me continue.”

For a moment, worriment replaced the anger I had in my heart towards my friend now turned enemy. Devin never acted without a reason. Their actions were always for a purpose, a greater goal.

But what’s the goal of this? I wondered.

“I’m fine Vee. Nurse Hughes will continue her watch of me.” The nurse nodded in agreement.

“Continue then.” I replied. “What’s Galloway’s sickness?”

“Not a sickness, but a transformation.”

Shocked I inquired, “Does it mirror mine?”

“Yes and no. FUCA’s first itinerary to the Black Hole occurred six years ago. Galloway visited Andros and ventured into the hole with only a few of his trusted employees at his side.”

“You and Kellie were there.”

Devin nodded, “And Nurse Hughes.”

“But how did you get permission?”

“Money is a powerful commodity. We bribed the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center and the Bahamian government. We convinced them our visit benefited Andros in ways other expedition visits hadn’t.”

Devin’s countenance became cloudy once again.

“And FUCA convinced them?”

They balled their fists as a seething rage rose. “Yes, thanks to Ms. Wade. She’s skilled at convincing others to do things that they may not want to do.”

“How so?”

“She used her words. There’s something uncanny… I can’t place my finger on what yet. But that isn’t important right now.”

It might be later though. Did the voice that spoke to me belonged to Ms. Wade? I couldn’t decipher the voice’s origins yet, but I kept a mental note of Ms. Wade’s skill. The mystery of Galloway’s illness had gone on way too long. I need answers and I needed them now.

“Skip to the end, Devin. What happened to Galloway?”

Devin continued. “Galloway dived into the hole and passed through the strange layer. A droid accompanied him, HMS-1.”

Glancing at Max, I asked. “Did you work on that droid?”

He nodded. “Yes I assisted Galloway, but he built the HMS-1. He became fascinated with what he created. Galloway saw the potential in having an automated buddy. He’s a passionate man.”

I observed the way Max spoke of his mysterious boss. “You admired him.”

“Oh yes! Galloway craves knowledge of everything but the ocean is his passion. He was tough, stern, and fair in how he treated people. Galloway wanted to make a better world.”

“And he will.” Devin replied.

Confused I asked, “Wait a minute. You’re not trying to take over the company?”

“Oh I am. I’m attempting to retake the company from Ms. Wade and return it to its rightful owner, Galloway.”

How?

New questions kept flooding my mind, and I still hadn’t received the answer to my first one. “What’s Galloway’s illness?” I demanded.

“He’s a permanent resident of the sea, just as you are now.”

11

 

When I was a child, I wanted to live in the sea. Through my accident I got my wish. I wondered if the same fate had befallen Galloway.

Astonished at Devin’s answer, I take a few seconds to respond. It’s hard to come to grips with the reality I’m not just in over my head. Oh no, I’m in deep stinking shit. I attempted to get a hold of myself. I turned my back to the three people responsible for my marine transformation.

Take a breath, you got this.

Now wasn’t the time for freaking out. It was time understand what the hell I’m dealing with. I took another breath and turned. Facing me was my former friend, their loyal sidekick, and the unwilling participant. “I’m insulted.” Devin’s eyebrow arched. “Excuse me?”

“You heard me. Since I’ve been on this expedition, you’ve treated me as less than. You’ve insulted my intelligence.”

Devin rose from their chair and approached the tube. “I apologize V, I didn’t mean-”

“I’m talking Dr. Strucker.” Devin returned to their seat. “If I’m one of the best scientists as you’ve claimed, then why didn’t you treat me that way? I want answers, real hardcore answers. Enough with the bullshit.”

Max burst into applause as Nurse Hughes stared in disapproval. “What?” He inquired. Devin shook their head. “I said what I said Devin. I got threatened, transformed into what I’m not sure, and you’ve kept me in the dark this whole time. It ends now.”

Devin stood again and replied, “You’re right Dr. Foy. I give you the respect you deserve. For that I’m sorry.”

“I accept your apology. Now get to the facts.” A fire lit in Devin’s eyes.

“When they entered passed through the strange layer, something happened which triggered the explosion. The cause is unknown.”

“Do you have any information on what caused my explosion?”

“No, we don’t.”

Interesting.

“Did the interaction between the strange layer and the explosion, trigger the transformation?” “Yes.” “While we aren’t sure of the exact cause we have a clue.” “What is it?” I wasn’t ready for what Devin said next. “When we retrieved Galloway, he muttered something regarding hearing a voice.”

A voice! Could it be the same one I encountered?

“Did Galloway mention what it said to him?”

“Yes, but it was unintelligible.”

Devin gazed at me with suspicion. “Did you listen to it?”

“To what?”

Devin sighed. “Dr. Foy, you’ve asked me not to insult your intelligence. Do not insult mine.”

“Yes I did.”

“What did it say to you?”

“I granted your wish.”

“Wish?”

“Yeah.”

“Tell me Dr. Foy.”

 

 

After telling my childhood story, Devin paced back and forth across the lab. This went on for a few minutes until I interrupted. “Devin, can you tell me more about Galloway’s condition? Describe his image.”

In the midst of their pacing, Devin paused. “You don’t emulate him. He looks… you must see it for yourself.”

“Just tell me.”

“It’s better to meet him in person. I understand you got questions, so do I. They’ll only get answered if we speak to Galloway himself.”

Nurse Hughes huffed. “And just how are we supposed to do that? No one’s seen him in six years.”

“Ms. Wade has. And we’ll persuade her to let us meet with him.”

“Again how Dr. Strucker? She’s prohibited world leaders, celebrities, and billionaires from seeing Galloway.”

“Yes she has. But we’ve got an incentive that they don’t.”

“And what’s that?”

Maxwell pointed at me.

 

12

 

Nurse Hughes gasped. “This won’t work Dr. Strucker.” “Why not? Once Ms. Wade’s aware of what we’ve done, there’s no way she won’t allow us to meet with Galloway.” I frowned. “What happened in the hole was on purpose then.” Devin scowled. “We didn’t-” Max glared at Devin. “Nurse Hughes and I, weren’t sure whether you’d transform.” “But you still sent me there.” “We wanted to gather data.”

I pounded on the glass in fury. “Oh, for fucks sake Devin! You knew! You sent me there on purpose! I might have died!”

“Hence why the HMS-2 accompanied you.”

“You’re not even sorry.”

“Your transformation was to level the playing field.”

“The playing field? You’re playing with my life Devin!”

“It was necessary for the greater good.”

Devin sighed as I gave them the middle finger. “I understand you’re angry.”

“Oh, I’m not angry, I’m beyond pissed! My life’s ruined because of you and FUCA.”

“No it’s only beginning anew.”

“Screw you! Fuck FUCA! And fuck Galloway!”

Nurse Hughes attempted to diffuse the tension. “Vee, let me explain.”

“No! I don’t want to hear from you either nurse. Screw you too!”

“Vee.” Max said.

“Leave me alone! Just leave me alone!”

Nurse Hughes ushered them out. “Let’s give them a moment.” My tears mixed with the salt water that filled my prison as I glared at my former friend.

“Why did you do this? Do you even care? Was our friendship a lie? Do I even know you?” Once more Devin’s façade shattered and sadness replaced the stoic demeanor.

“Oh Vee, there’s so much I want to tell you. One day you’ll understand and I hope you’ll forgive me.” And with that Devin exited the lab, leaving me to my sorrows.

 

 

 

They left me alone for two hours. In that time, I bawled and released my pent-up emotions of anger, sadness, and remorse. After a much-needed venting session, I gathered my composure. It took a few minutes to ready myself to escaping.

Mourn, resist, organize, onward.

I repeated these words as I sought a way to be free. Determined, I reminisced on the events of the day. As they flowed backwards in my mind, I paused at Nurse Hughes.

While unconscious, I remembered parts of the nurse’s conversation with Devin. She mentioned to my old friend that I possessed a telepathic rapport. Something that she didn’t tell me of in our conversation. It was my get out of jail card.

But how do I use it?

Neither myself nor my captors knew how powerful my ability was or what I could do with it. Being a telepath didn’t mean having telekinetic abilities either… but maybe I did? I might as well try, right?

With that I gave it a go and concentrated on freeing myself from the tube. Focused on my thoughts, I broke through the glass with my mind. Shards flew as I crash landed on the floor and the tube’s water flooded the lab. I breathed in the air and smiled.

I did it!

My celebration was brief as the ship’s alarms begun to sound. “Curse you Devin.” With a jolt, I rose and scampered my away towards the door. I had only seconds before security arrived. “Let’s see what you can do.” I said to myself.

CRASH!

The door blew open, knocking the two guards who had stood in front of it to the floor. With the men out of action, I poked my head out. Sensing no signs of movement, I made my way along the corridor. I needed to get to the diving deck.

Upon reaching the half way point, I detected another set of guards. I had two options, fight them head on or hide. I chose the latter. “Come on Glaser, Dr. Foy couldn’t have gotten far.” “Where’d you think she’s headed Soul?” “Strucker said the ocean. She wasn’t sighted in the other two corridors, so our best bet is to cut her off here.”

The guards were close, too close for comfort. I focused my mind on remaining undetected, but my head began to hurt. I soldiered on, and that’s when the guards rounded the corner.

Don’t breathe, don’t move, don’t bolt.

I focused even harder on becoming invisible. They edged closer to where I had placed myself and the pain in my head got even worse.

Don’t breathe, don’t move, don’t bolt.

“Nothing here Soul. She’s gone.”

“Damn. Call it in and I’ll check the lab.” Soul moved on while Glaser got on his radio.

Come on move!

“Glaser here.” The dark-haired man spoke into his radio with thick Brooklyn accent.

“Go ahead.” Nurse Hughes was on the other end of the line.

“No sign of Dr. Foy. She’s gone.”

“It’s unlikely.” Devin now spoke. “Regroup and retrace your steps. She may be hiding in plain sight.”

The pain in my head showed no manner of retreating. It got louder and louder as if someone was applying continuous blows. I continued to stay still and focused, but my invisibility started to fade.

Come on Glaser move!

“What the hell?”

Damn.

 

 

13

 

Stunned at my sudden emergence, Glaser was slow to react which gave me satisfaction. My quick thinking delivered a punch to the guard’s face and the force of the blow slammed him into the wall. His lifeless body slithered to the ground. “Oops. Guess I don’t know my own strength.” I paused and leaned closer to check for a sign of life from the guard. Satisfied by his heavy breathing, I rose and continued my trek to the dive deck.

I clocked the guard which gave me with extra time. As I made my escape, I discovered another ability I possessed, camouflage. As I approached the stairs, a group of security blocked my path.  I leaned against the wall and attempted to become invisible once more to no avail.  Instead, my head felt as though someone lit it on fire.

Great, now what?

Something innate kicked in and I leaned against the wall, calm and frozen in place. Security passed right on by me without even noticing. I freaked out the first time, by the third I was a pro. My camouflage ability spared me pain and gave me time to recharge my telepathic powers.

I reached the stairs in no time flat. Aside from any surprises, it’s the only thing keeping me from my freedom.  From what I gathered during my trek, the rest of the guards and crew were behind me, hot on my trail and closing.   With the ocean within my grasp, I needed to be cautious with my next steps.  Pain be damned, I had to use my telepathy. It was the only way to be sure.

“Let’s do this.”

 As I gripped the railing I trudged myself along.  I blocked out everything and focused on the on goings within the ship. The visuals entering my head were sudden, distinct, and bright.  I saw the two guards Soul and Glaser still near the medical lab. Aside from having a black eye, Glaser was alive and well. And pissed.  My head began to hurt again, so I stepped up my searching. I zoomed through the ship and found Max. Two guards accompanied him, and he didn’t appear enthused to take part in the search. His mind confirmed it as I sensed an unwillingness…

And then an idea popped into my head. 

[_Max. _]

Vee?

Is that you?

The one and only.

How are you doing this?

 I’ve got telepathic abilities.

Oh, my god. That’s so cool! I-

We don’t have much time.

Right. I take it you need my help.

Yes, I hate to ask you but I need your help.

You’ve got it.

What can I do?

Can you stall them?

Absolutely, any specific way you want that done?

Be innovative, I trust you remember?

Thanks. I’m sorry V.

No worries. It’s not your fault. Just one more thing.

Yeah Vee?

Do you know where Devin and Nurse Hughes are?

They’re heading towards the dive deck.

Thanks Max.

Vee?

I’ve got to go now, my head’s hurting.

[I hope we meet _]again[ one day in a better place._]

Me too. Until then…

Breathing hard and my head pounding, I reached the ship’s deck. But did I get here before Devin and Nurse Hughes? I was about to find out.

Stepping onto the deck, I tiptoed towards the dive deck.  With my head pounding, I attempted one last scan. The images I received were blurry, dark, and unfocused. From my scan, I knew there were at least four people on deck. I knew where exactly they’re located, was up in the air. I had to go with my instincts.

Moving stealthy, I came up behind a guard.  Taking them out with ease, I moved on.  One down three to go.  As I continued my silent trek, I sensed someone close by but they took me by surprise.  

P-tush.

Something pricked my lower back, and my vision zoomed in and out of fuzziness.  And then a person’s fist hit my lower jaw.  I swung back but only got air and another hit that put me on the floor.   I glanced up and saw the guard standing over me. Two shadows approached them from behind. 

“Sorry Vee, this is as far as you go.”

And everything goes dark.

14

 

A searing pain ran from my back up to my head greeted me as I awoke. Blurry-eyed, I noticed Nurse Hughes sitting in front of me checking my vitals. “She’s coming to.” In a slow circular motion, I turned my head, trying to get my bearings. We were still on the ship’s main deck the dive deck was a few feet away. The two guards, and Devin accompanied Nurse Hughes and I.

Devin kneeled in front of me. “Status.” “Vitals are stabilizing. She’ll be groggy, but otherwise she’s okay.” I glanced up at Devin as they continued to speak to the nurse.  “We’re headed to the AUTEC in the township of Fresh Creek.” “Why there?” “Reinforcements. We’re going to need them when we pay Galloway a visit.”

Paying attention to the conversation wasn’t painfulness, but it was bearable. The fire that blazed through my head was receding, and I focused harder as I lay on the deck.

“Do you think Ms. Wade will put up a fight?” Devin nodded. “She’s protective of Galloway and so am I… We’ll need a lot of support.”  “I take it you’ve made the necessary arrangements to keep the AUTEC officials out of the way.” “Nurse you know me well. Money talks and here talk isn’t cheap.”

“Dr. Strucker.” “Ah, captain. Are we on schedule?” “Aye. We’ll arrive in another fifteen minutes.” The captain peered at me. “Will she’ll be okay?” “Yes captain. We’ll place her in a sea bath once we arrive at the bureau.” “And what of my crew and I? Will you need our services any further?” “No. You’ve done what we hired you to do, and I thank you.” “Humph. If I knew what we were walking into, I’d rejected the job.” “But you didn’t. And as the saying goes, “silence is golden.” Any problems you may face FUCA will take care of. Should you speak of the events you’ve witness, I’ll silence both the voices of you and your crew forever, understood?” Captain Ryan scowled. “Aye, I get the photo. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll be in my quarters for the rest of the journey.”

After the captain exited the deck, Devin beckoned one of the guards over and whispered. “Once we arrive, imprison the captain and her crew and impound the Calypso Blue. They’ll stay there until we’ve completed our task. I don’t want any interference. We might have to put them out of permanent commission.” “Understood doctor.”

 Without warning, Devin’s right leg gave out and they tumbled to the deck. The guard helped Devin up while the nurse looked on with concern. “Doctor Strucker, I believe it’s time for your shot.” Their skin turned a sickly color and their breathing became heavy. Devin held up their hand to stop the guard and caught their breath. “You are right nurse. Morales, Decker. Keep watch over our patient. Notify me immediately when they come to. It’s imperative that they don’t escape, if they make an attempt shoot to stun.” “Yes doctor.” “I’ll be in my quarters if you need me.”

Great another mystery to decipher. I couldn’t believe it Devin’s sick? There must be a correlation between their illness and this mission. I can’t solve it until I got to the bottom of everything.  There’s so many trails but they all added up to Galloway. I needed to meet the man on my own terms.

With Devin and the nurse now absent from the deck, the two guards and myself were left to our own devices. Decker, the one I had surprised, was closer to the dive deck. He guarded his area while giving timely glances to where I lay. Decker held an ice pack to the nurse the eye I had blackened.  Morales stood over me holding his FUCA blaster near my body. His eyes moved from me, to Decker, the sea, and back again.

As a huge fan of naps, I appreciated laying down on the deck. The pain dissipated and I’m recharged and ready to make my escape. But how to do it? Then a voice spoke.

The sea. The sea is your ally.

Who is this?

You’ll know soon enough.

How can the sea help me?

You were born from the sea. Everything in it can help you win the battle that’s coming.

What battle?

All will be revealed soon. Head for the Tongue of the Ocean, there you’ll find the answers you seek.

How am I supposed to do-

The sea. Focus on the sea.

Closing my eyes, I focused and called upon the inhabitants of the sea to aid me. I beckoned the waves to do my biding. With the sun on my back and the wind upon my face, my demeanor changed.  It frightened Morales and he backed away, his body shook as he continued to point his blaster at me. With the sea as my ally, I feared nothing.

I’m ready for battle.

15

 

“Aaaah!” The waves crashed landed onto the deck, sweeping Morales off the ship and into the ocean. He flew past Decker. “What the hell?” He shouted before another set of waves swept him away and he joined Morales in water.

Once again the ship’s alarm rang out, paving the way for a group of eight guards to charge onto the deck. Lead by Soul and Glaser, the group encircled me and readied their weapons. With ease and agility, I evaded the shots.

So that’s how the Flash feels.

Next, I obstructed their vision with sprays of water and moved in close. A melee ensued.  My strategy incorporated a combination of attack, stun, and counter. The more connected my attacks were, the faster and more agile I became. This allowed me to attack and move between the guards without getting attacked myself.   The battle ended with the security force lying on the deck unconscious.

Only Soul and Glaser stood in my way. I glanced at them. “How’s the eye?” Glaser sneered, “Sore, but don’t worry I’ve got just the thing to repay you.”  Instead of blasters, both wielded a pair of electric batons. “Nice toys.”  “My gift to you. Come on Soul, let’s get this freak.”  “Let’s see what these babies can do.” Soul charged first and I moved to greet him.

He lunged with his right and I dodged, but his left packed a punch. “Ooh, that’s got to hurt.” Soul jeered. I grimaced as I took a knee.  Glaser looked on with a smirk. “Does it sting?” I gave him a smirk of my own as I rubbed my side.  “Oh yeah. Hey how come you’re not fighting?” “Two on one isn’t a fair fight.” “But six on one was?” “Those guys aren’t as good as we are. Think of it as a warm up before the big finale.”

For a good five minutes, Soul and I kept at it. In the horizon, I saw two speed boats approaching fast, armed with blasters.  I sensed more people coming from below deck. Soul and Glaser were there to stall and they were doing an excellent job of it. Time wasn’t on my side so I implemented a new plan. I had to execute it as efficient as I could.  Instead of evading Soul’s blows, I took one to the face and another to the stomach. Again I dropped to the deck. “You know Glaser, you’re right.” “Eh?” “Two on one isn’t a fair fight, so I’m going to make it fair.” Glaser laughed and Soul looked on amused. “How are you going to do that?”

As I kept watch on the oncoming boats and the backup racing up to the decks, it was my turn to stall. “By providing you with a partner to spar with of course.”  As both men smirked, Soul brought his weapons to his side. “I’m afraid it’s too late freak.” “How so?” “We were only playing you.” “Nah, you played yourself.”

Just a few more minutes…

“What the hell are you talking about? Look around, you’re surrounded.” I cocked my head, “Hmm… am I?” “Indeed you are V.” Devin had arrived on deck with the reinforcements. Just in time to watch the two speed boats park themselves alongside the Calypso Blue. 

After passing through the guards, Devin stood between me and Soul. “Nicely done boys.” “Just doing the lord’s work doc.” Soul replied as he saluted Devin.

“Guess, you got me.” I smiled sheepishly at my former friend. “I always had you. Did you think you could just escape? This isn’t a game V.” “No shit.” I shouted. “You’re not the one who’s got webbed hands and feet and gills on their neck!” “V calm yourself.” “Don’t tell me what to do. You don’t own me.” “Look around, there’s no escape. I don’t want to hurt you.”

Now!

 “You already did.”

Bursting from the sea and unto the deck were a dozen large electric rays.  While docile, these animals when fully rested and charged, can give a shock of up to 220 volts. While it’s enough to knock a grown man off their feet, it’s not enough to kill a healthy human. None of my foes were unhealthy, so death wasn’t a worry.

As the rays electrified the people on deck, I made my escape. The deck erupted in chaos as blaster fire, screams and curses, rang out. Amidst the confusion I dived into the sea, and headed towards the Tongue of the Ocean. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death, but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness.”

 

― George Fox

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

III

 

REFLECTION

16

 

Entering the water restored my strength and made my mind whole.  Blaster fire breached the sea, and I avoided the streaks of fire as I dived deeper.  My destination was the Tongue of the Ocean.  The voice, the same one that granted my childhood wish spoke once more. It told me that’s where the answers to my questions lay.

The tongue or TOTO as it’s called, is a deep oceanic trench. It lies between the Bahamian islands of Andros and New Providence. Its U-shaped and flat-bottomed, 20 miles wide by 150 miles long.  The depth varies from 3,600 feet in the south to 6,600 feet in the north. TOTO’s only access to the open ocean is at the northern end. The rest of the trench’s surrounded by a peripheral shelter made up of islands, reefs, and shoals. This natural boundary isolates the trench from ocean disturbances, such as high ambient noise.

I sensed the voice wanted me to go there. This natural shelter appealed to me. After the past chaotic days, I endured, I longed for a place of calm and clarity.

Ten minutes in, the lines of blaster fire ceased and replaced with the normal on goings of marine life.  My swim invigorated me and amid it, I realized I’m living out my childhood. 

[_I’m a real mermaid swimming in the ocean! _]

To breathe[_ _]underwater and moving around so agile as a fish excited me.  The inhabitants of the sea welcomed me and I knew this was home. For the first time, I was content. Finally, I knew where I belonged.

My happiness didn’t last long.

It got interrupted by two harpoons. One which zinged past me and another that scraped my left shoulder blade. As I turned to confront my attackers, a two-pronged probe got embedded in my right leg. 

AAAAAH!  The voltage wasn’t strong enough to make me unconscious, but it stung.  I plucked the probe out and sent it barreling into my attacker’s chest where it did its work.  With my enemy knocked out, only had to face four more aggressors. With only minimal injuries, I stood ready to kick ass. 

And I did just that.

With the sea as my beck and call, I reached out and retaliated.  I summoned a porcupine fish, and it crippled one guard. A shark took out another by biting a chunk of their flesh off their leg. 

Two to go.

These guys tagged-team which threw me off guard at first.  Their attacks flowed as one movement which impressed and annoyed me.  I needed to split their teamwork. I hurled a water blast which did the trick, and I followed up with a punch to the face and a head-butt to finish the job. Not waiting for anymore attackers to arrive, I bolted.

With my increased speed, I reached the Tongue in twenty minutes. Though my injuries appeared insignificant, I hadn’t recovered. Short of breath, nausea invaded my stomach and I puked blood.  Instead of the normal red color, my blood had a purple tinge to it, which puzzled me as I blacked out.

Wake up Viola. Wake up!

I jolted awake and looked around. I found nothing and only the sound I heard was of a whale far off into the distance. Still feeling uneasy, I continued my journey to the trench’s natural barrier.

The going was slow as my injuries plagued me. Both the harpoon and the taser must have had poisonous tips.  I didn’t know how much of the poison circulated through my body, nor did I think it was strong enough to kill me. Either way, I needed to get it out.

Continuing my journey, I spotted a group of sponges scatter along the sea floor.  Sponges have a water floor system that supports their living functions-respiratory, digestion etc.  The system filters food particles out of the water that flows through the sponge. Knowing this, I wondered if I could use the sponge to filter out the poison. It was a long shot, but I had to try.

Using my mind, I picked up two of the animals and placed them on my wounds.

Here goes nothing.

I asked the sponges to focus on the poison and filter it out.  The sponges complied. I had been polite about my request after all, and in few minutes they got most of the toxin out of my system. My body responded immediately and there were no traces of either injury.

After thanking them and making sure they were okay, I said goodbye and returned the sponge. The speed of my journey increased two-fold. I entered the natural shelter of the Tongue of the Ocean in no time flat.

Marine life aside, I sensed no other sentient beings. I asked a few of the animals I encountered if they knew of the mysterious voice. But I didn’t have much to go on description wise. And that didn’t help matters. For a few minutes, I just floated in the current until I made the decision to reach out to the voice.

Hello? Ms. Voice? Can you hear me?

No response.

I need to speak with you. Please, it’s urgent.

Again nothing. Frustrated, I rung my fist.

Look, you told me to come here. I’m here show yourself!

Silence.

Why did I even bother to come here?

Because you seek answers.

The voice!

From a shallow corner emerged a mermaid-like figure.  They had a woman’s nude upper body with a fish tail for a bottom.  She looks like me, black but even more beautiful. A large snake accompanied the woman. It wrapped itself around her with its head resting between her breasts.  The mermaid had long kinky black hair combed straight back. In her hands were priceless combs, mirrors, and watches.

The woman greeted me. “Hello Viola.”

 

17

 

Astonished at the magnificent figure floating in front of me, no words escaped my mouth. I stood there gaping as she spoke in a soft demur voice. “Hello Viola. It’s been a while since I’ve had company aside from my snake. I’m glad you’re here. We’ve got lots discuss.”

Though I didn’t speak, I sensed there was something familiar. I wasn’t sure what, but the feeling didn’t leave. 

“Who are you?”

“I’m Mami Wata.”

Mami Wata?

It couldn’t be. She’s the water goddess of the Caribbean, West and Central Africa?  I couldn’t believe it, but something told me what she said was true.

“It’s nice to meet you.”

“You’ve grown into an intelligent young lady.”

“Wait, we’ve met?”

“Why yes, at the wishing well.”

“It was [_you _]who granted my wish?”

Mami nodded. 

“But did you wait so long? And why the Black Hole?”

“You have many questions. You’ve always been curious.”

“You’re right and I demand answers.”

“In time the answers will come.”

“Time isn’t on my side. I need the answers now.”

Mami’s brow furrowed for a moment as her snake hissed.  The goddess soothed her pet with her hand, as her countenance returned to normal. “Impatient. Your kind was always that way… No matter, I’ll tell you.”

“There’s so many questions I’m not sure where to begin.”

“Let’s start with your wish. It was the starting point of the journey you’re on now.”

“You were in the well?”

“The wishing wells are an access point. It’s a way for humans to communicate with the water spirits and gods.”

“Why didn’t my wish come true?”

“Everything has a time and place. Your wish required a catalyst.”

“The Black Hole.”

“The hole is an ancient magical place. The deeper you go the stronger the magic.”

“So the explosion had nothing to do with my transformation?”

“Yes, and no. The magical properties of the water and the contents of the probe interacted. Hence the explosion.”

“Are you saying that the probe contained magical properties?”

“Maybe, the probe’s an advanced technological creation.” 

“Clarke’s third law.”

“Yes.”

“But-”

“But what?”

“Before the explosion, something grabbed my leg, holding me beneath the strange layer. Was that you?” 

 A sly grin spread across Mami’s face. “Yes.”

“Why?”

“If I didn’t death awaited you. The only way to save you was to grant your wish.”

I wasn’t sure if I believed Mami. Gods often advance their own agendas. Humans are their playthings that they used to further their plans. I didn’t perceive if I trusted her.

“You don’t trust me?”

“While I appreciate that you saved my life and granted my wish, no I don’t.”

“It’s wise to not place your complete trust in gods. But tell me, how do you like your wish?”

“I’m content. I know the ocean is where I belong, but…”

“You have doubts.”

“I do. There’s this saying from a comic book ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’”

“Meaning?”

“I have great abilities, and it’s my responsibility to use them for the greater good. I’m just not sure what that is now.”

“You have concerns about FUCA and Galloway.”

I looked at the mermaid.  “What do you know about that? Did you grant Galloway’s wish?”

“No, his transformation came at his own hands.”

“How? He went into the hole and the same thing happened to him.”

“That isn’t the full story.” Mami held up her hand to stop me. “You’ll have to speak to him to hear it. Once you do, you’ll have to decide between two paths. How you choose will have consequences that’ll reverberate for years to come.” 

“What about FUCA?”

“Like you they have great power and a responsibility. How they use their power depends on who’s in charge.”

“I see…”

We sat in silence on the ocean floor for a few minutes. The new information helped, but it also created more questions. The addition of more questions and few answers frustrated me.

Mami interrupted my thoughts.

 “You must leave this place.”

“Why?”

“They’re coming for you. This is my home I can’t not allow for them to discover it.”

“How would they know to find me here?”

Mami’s snake slithered over and then returned to its mistress. “Something in your head tells them.”

A tracer.

“Can you remove it?” The goddess nodded and swam over to me. While she placed her hands on the sides of my head, the snake moved in front.  Facing my forehead, the snake opened its mouth.

“Do not be afraid. We’ll cleanse it from your body.” Mami chanted and the tracer started moving through my head. The mermaid’s chanting grew faster and louder. Then the tracer exited my forehead and entered the serpent’s mouth.

“It’s done.”

“Thank you Mami.”

She nodded. “Go. Get the answers you seek and choose what you must do.” “I will.” Mami’s image dissipated and I was alone again. 

 

 

 

Propelling myself, I swam away as fast as I could from Mami’s grotto. When I put a good distance between myself and the goddess’ home, I scanned for any FUCA or military presence.

Gotcha.

Swimming fast I caught up with the search party, divided into two boats. FUCA security were on the patrol boat, while the US Navy searched in an ocean surveillance ship.  From a mind scan, I learned that the search came to a standstill after they received the last ping. It came from this ten-mile stretch of the trench. The group split up to cover more ground as they retrace their steps and attempt to pick up the signal. Without the tracer, their search was a lost cause.

It relieved me to learn they wouldn’t near Mami’s home anytime soon. I melded my body with the ocean itself to move in closer undetected.  Turning into a small water spout, I rose to the surface. My stunt got the search party’s attention.  They stared at the ‘water spout’ fascinated by this work of nature. 

I make a damn good water spout.

Part of the spout faded to reveal my face, which stunned the group even further. Their surprised faces brought a grin across my face.

“Hello boys.”

 

18

 

Guns at the ready, the stunned search party had me in the sights. “Don’t move! Keep your hands where we can see them.” With a Kool-Aid smile on my face, I raised my hands. “Nice and easy. Good. Now uh…”

“I take it you want me to come aboard your boat?”

 I returned to my normal state, started to come aboard the surveillance boat. “No funny business.”  My surrender’s not a game. I stopped grinning and engrossed myself in the task at hand.

Once boarded, two soldiers accompanied me to the bridge. As we entered, eyes drifted towards us. Everyone stopped their work and stared.

“Guess you don’t get to look at someone like me every day huh?”

“No. We don’t.” The voice came from behind. A grey-haired black man stepped onto the bridge. At 6 feet, 211 pounds he’s in his late forties. He had blue eyes and black hair cut short in accordance to Navy protocol.  From glancing at him you knew he’s the captain. Not only that, his crew holds him in great esteem.  

“Captain on the bridge!”  

“At ease.” He spoke with an accent, a mixture of two languages: French and…

“Fon.”

“Huh?”

“Fon’s the other language.”

“You knew I read your mind?”

“Yes. Dr. Strucker briefed us.” “They’re adamant that you’re brought in alive and unharmed if possible.”  

“I understand… well you’ve caught me.”

“Did we?”

“I’m sorry, captain-”

“Captain Kayin Greene.”

“Nice to meet you, captain.” He nodded. “And you. What is your name?”

“The briefing didn’t give that info?”

“No, it only gave intel on your form and abilities.”

“Fascinating.”

“The briefing labeled you a marine creature. And from meeting you in person, I gather that’s not the case.”

Hmm…

“I’m Dr. Viola E. Foy.” A hush fell upon the entire bridge. Even the captain appeared disturbed. “You’ve heard of me?”

“Why yes your work is well-respected within the science community. We may be Navy, but we’re scientists too.”

The plot thickens. I’ve surrendered myself to a group of people who are in the dark about what’s happened. Interesting.

“I appreciate that.”

“You have to excuse us, doctor. The news of your disappearance two weeks ago, hit hard. You may not realize this, due to not being not out in public much, but you have many fans.”  “

Wow, I’m shocked.”

Captain Greene nodded. “There are many things that we’re both unaware of.”

“Agreed. Can we discuss this further over lunch? I’m famished.”

“I don’t see why not.”

“Captain.” A young woman in her late thirties, stood at attention by her station. 5.5 feet in height she weighed 160 pounds. She had reddish hair cropped short and green eyes, and freckles that dotted her brown skin. The woman appeared concerned and stared at me with suspicion.

“Yes lieutenant.”

“Is this wise? Once captured we’re supposed to hand the creature-eh Dr. Foy over to Dr. Strucker.”

“Dr. Foy this is Lieutenant Commander Arya Wellington, my XO.”

I nodded at the lieutenant which she returned.

“Lieutenant, I understand you’ve got orders, but I don’t pose a threat to you. It’s obvious FUCA’s kept things from you. As have I.  I don’t trust Dr. Strucker or the rest of FUCA, and you shouldn’t either. Your best bet is to trust me. I’m sure by working together, we can get to the bottom of this.”

Lieutenant Wellington stared at me for a moment.

“Well lieutenant?”

“I don’t trust her yet captain, but she’s right. We weren’t given all the facts. I suggest we keep her capture under wraps for a while longer until we receive more information.”

“I agree.”

“In the meantime, we’ll need to keep the FUCA boat distracted.” 

Nodding in agreement, a smile returned to my face. “Leave that to me.” Giving myself up, might work in my favor after all.

 

 

19

 

“What will you do?” Lt. Wellington stared at me with skepticism. We had gone back up to the ship’s deck. Earning her trust will be hard. Her question was valid though. Unsure of what my distraction and how effective it could be, I thought fast and answered the lieutenant’s question with conviction.

“I’ll create a barrier between them and us.”

“And how long will this ‘barrier’ last?” “Not sure. I’ve never tried this before.”

“Great.”

“Look, I didn’t receive training on how to use my powers okay? There’s no Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters for me to attend. Since my transformation, any time I’ve used my powers, I’ve winged it.”

“You mean you didn’t volunteer to become what you are?”

I scoffed. “Is that what they’ve told you?”

“Yeah.”

“Well shit. What else did they say? Forget it. They lied okay?”

Lt. Wellington’s skepticism melted away. “Go on.”

“I’ve known Devin-I mean Dr. Strucker since college. A few months ago, they invited me on an expedition. We were to explore the Seven Seas… But that wasn’t what happen.” Lt. Wellington listened intently as I told her my story.

 

 

After I finished, she sat in silence for a few minutes. “That’s hard to take in.”

“No shit.”

“What’s it like to live in the sea?”

I took a deep breath. “I’m free.  For a long time, I was adrift. I belonged nowhere even within groups that I’m supposed to belong. When this happened I escaped and found my home.”

“And now your home’s threatened by whatever FUCA’s planning.”

“Yeah. The problem is, I don’t know their plan.”

“Well Dr. Foy, you’ve got our support.”

“Thanks.”

My senses picked up the patrol boat. Still ways off, the boat headed straight for us.

“Whatever you’ll do, now’s the time, doctor.”

“Okay. Keep your fingers crossed. Hope this works.”  My eyes fixed on the approaching ship, I focused on creating a barrier. But what kind? Then an idea hit me. 

In a moment, a huge wall of water rose a few feet in front of the boat.

I turned to greet Captain Greene. “Will that work?”

Impressed the captain nodded. “That’ll work. But how long will it work?”

“As long as you need the wall. They’ll keep coming but the wall will keep them at bay.  We must create distance between us and them.” 

“Right. We’ll head to New Providence.”

“Why don’t we return to AUTEC?”

“Dr. Foy’s right captain. They won’t expect that.”

The captain looked out at the wall. “Can they see us or track our movements with that wall up?”

“I can block their equipment from tracking us. And I’ll ask my friends to help.”

“Friends?”

“The marine creatures, lieutenant.”

“Ah.”

Captain Greene nodded in agreement. “Lieutenant order the helmsmen to set a course back to AUTEC.”

“Aye captain.”

“Dr. Foy, you are to remain out here and focus your energies on keeping that wall of water up. I’ll have two of my soldiers posted here to protect you.” “

Thanks cap.”

“Is there anything you need?”

“Yes. It’ll help if I got some food.”

“I’ll send up a tray. Good hunting.”

I saluted the captain as he headed back to the bridge.  Five minutes later, one of the cooks emerged on the deck with a tray of food from the galley. To their astonishment, I devoured the food in no time.  I gave my thanks and returned to the task at hand reenergized, and ready to tackle anything that came my way. 

 

 

20

 

The wall of water proved to be a successful idea. After a while I got bored and created other telepathic and telekinetic tricks.  Within the chase, I made the wind my ship’s alley and FUCA’s foil. This enabled us to put more distance between the two boats. I ushered bigger water spouts and huge waves to be a thorn in the patrol ship’s side. Even the marine animals aided me.

We played cat and mouse with the FUCA controlled patrol ship for thirty minutes. The ship finally gave up, allowing us to be able to arrive at the township of French Creek in less than two hours.  

French Creek’s home to the AUTEC, the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center. The center’s operated by the US Navy. The center establishes and maintains the naval ability of the United States. Through testing, evaluation, and underwater research in the Tongue of the Ocean, accomplishes its job.  The AUTEC has three test ranges: The Weapons Range, the Acoustic Range, and the FORACS Range.

I daresay say it was fun. Testing my power proved not only a great asset to my new allies, but it allowed me to learn what else I could do. This revelation made Captain Greene and his crew both impressed and fearful of me. 

“They’ve gave up the chase thanks to you.” Before we reached French Creek, the captain summoned me to his quarters.

“Glad to be of service. It’s amazing to learn what I can do.”

“But what can you not do?”

“From the Intel report, not much.”

“And that worries me. With your god-like powers, there’s not going to be much that’ll stop you.”

I frowned.  “Why can’t you understand I’m not a threat to you, your crew, or anyone else? I want to use my powers for good, not for whatever purpose FUCA has in mind.”

“That’s great. But what if you can’t control your powers? What if one day they spiral out of control Dr. Foy?”

“That won’t happen, I’m in control.”

“But for how long?”

Angry, I balled my hands into fists.  “You can trust me captain. I’m not here to start any trouble. We’re both here to seek out the truth and prevent any nefarious plan FUCA has.”

“But what if you’re part of their plan?”

I scoffed.

“You need to take that into consideration. I’m serious doctor.”

“I’m not part of FUCA’s plan.”

“How do you know?”

“I don’t okay? I’m not sure.”

“No one is. FUCA holds the cards. It’s up to us to consider every possibility and prepare.”

Tears dripped from my face, and Captain Greene touched my shoulder. “You remind me of my daughter.”

“I do?”

“Yes. She’s around your age, married with six kids, and works as a nurse.”

“Wow.”

“There was a time when I thought things would go downhill.  At sixteen she became pregnant with her first child. Her and her boyfriend got married not long after that.  Things were hard for them but they preserved and now years later, they’re going strong.”

“You must be proud.”

“I am. My wife and I had four kids. We lost two of them, our youngest son to drowning and our other daughter to cancer.”

“I’m sorry for your lost.”

The captain nodded. “What we lost we can never replace, but we’ve gained so much. It’s why I’ve dedicated myself to my work. I want to prepare for when bad things happen, because they always do.”

“What about hoping for the best?”

“There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s smart to prepare for the worst. Do you understand what I’m trying to say?”

“I think so. Thank you Captain Greene.”

“Thank you Dr. Foy. I’m glad to have met you. I’m sorry for what I have to do next.”

“What?”

Ptush.

A familiar sharp prick hit my lower back. Grasping in agony, I fell to the floor. Before the lights went out, I heard a voice. “Welcome home V.”

 

 

21

 

“Okay, I’m confused.” I awoke and found myself once again trapped in a watery prison. Except this one was much more spacious. Peering at me on the opposite side of the reinforced glass were a few of FUCA’s scientists, Lt. Wellington, Captain Greene, and Nurse Hughes and Devin. 

Captain Green moved closer to the glass.  “We tricked you doctor.”

“No shit cap. Why?” 

“It was the only way to bring you in successfully.”

“So much for trust huh, lieutenant.”

“I never trusted you. I trust my captain. Whatever he decides, I go with the decision.”

I glared at the captain. “Was that whole story bullshit?”

“No. No, it wasn’t. It’s smart to prepare for the worst.”

“And you consider me the worst. Worse than FUCA?”

“You might be, better be safe than sorry. And ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend.’” 

“Right.”

I curled my lip and scowled.  “Devin.”

“We meet again Vee. You shouldn’t have escaped.”

“Had to, needed the fresh air.”

Devin smiled. “And how was the fresh air?” 

“Wonderful. In fact, I plan to go back.”

“We shall see.”

We glared at each other for a moment, and soon after Nurse Hughes interrupted the standoff.  “Dr. Strucker, we need to finish the preparations.”

“What’s going on nurse?” She turned.

“We will have visitors.” “

Galloway and Ms. Wade?” “

Yes. They’ll arrive in an hour.”

I looked at Devin. “You convinced Galloway to come out of hiding?”

“It was Ms. Wade who convinced him. After speaking with her, she was adamant we shouldn’t meet.”

I cocked my head. “What changed her mind?” “She referred to a meeting with an old friend that made her reconsider.” 

“Do you know who this friend is?”

“It doesn’t matter, we got what we wanted.”

“It could be a trap.”

“Yes. I’ve figured that.” 

You think of everything, don’t you Devin?

“What’s the plan Devin?”

“You’re going with us.” 

“Say what?”

“You’re coming to the-”

“I heard you the first time. Why?”

“In case things go awry, you’re our ace. Besides, don’t you want to meet Galloway?”  “

Sure I do.”

“I don’t see why you’re arguing with me. You’re going.”

I smirked. “I’m only being a pain in the ass.”

“As I told you a few weeks ago V, nothing’s changed.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Devin smiled as they and their motley crew exited the room. Lt. Wellington and another soldier stayed.

“Yay, I’ve got company!”

The lieutenant rolled her eyes. “For a well-renowned scientist you sure act like a child sometimes.” “There’s nothing wrong with being young at heart.”

There’s nothing wrong with being young at heart.” Glaser mimicked me as he and Soul entered the room.

“Ooh more company!” I cheered as Lt. Wellington rolled her eyes once more. Soul smirked. “That’s right. We’re here to watch the freak show.”

“Hey if you want a show, I’ll give you a show.”

“Well get on with it then.” Glaser held up the bag of chips he carried. “I’ve got my snacks ready.”

Lt. Wellington stomped her foot and opened the door. “Where are you going doll?” A flash of anger showed on her face as she walked up to Glaser. The lieutenant pierced her finger into his chest.

“Don’t ever call me doll.”

“Right. Sorry lieutenant.”

“I’m going to help Dr. Strucker with the preparations. Do us favor and don’t let her escape this time okay?”

“Yes ma’am.” Soul saluted the lieutenant. She glared at him and walked out the door, the soldier followed.

Left with the two goonies, I swam around my spacious cage.  Soul tapped on the glass. “Hey no tricks.”

“Just getting my exercise in.”

“I think you had enough of that.”

“How’s the eye Glaser?”

He rubbed it with his middle finger. “Just fine freak.”

“Aww someone’s butt hurt.”

Glaser lunged at the tank, but Soul held him back. “Take it easy pal.”

“One day, I’m gonna get my revenge.”

“Yeah, yeah. Until then why don’t you take it easy. ‘Sides the freak’s gonna put on a show for us. Ain’t that right?”

A sly grin appeared on my face. “Oh you have no idea.”

I had their undivided attention, the show began. “For my first act, I’m going to disappear.”

“Wait a minute.” Glaser stood and attempted to move closer to the glass, but he was too late.

 

 

 

22

 

As I focused my mind on the glass, a small crack appeared. It grew bigger and bigger until it broke from the pressure. Water and glass flowed out of the tank, slamming Glaser and Soul up against the wall.

Free from the cube that had imprisoned me, I hovered in the air as I made the water rise and flood the room.  The water reached the men’s necks as they gasped for air.

“Help!” Soul cried out.

“Please don’t kill us.”

“Oh I’m not going to kill you. I’m just going to put you to sleep.”  I knocked them unconscious and gathered the surrounding water. Still hovering, the water and I moved in out of the room and into the hallway.

Ptsush, ptush, ptush, ptush, ptush, ptush.

Surprised that I didn’t sense them, I blocked the rapid fire of blaster weapons from the ambush using the water. Lt. Wellington the onslaught of FUCA security and navy personnel. “Cease fire!”  Smoke hung in the air for a moment and then it was quiet. The lieutenant approached me with caution, her blaster aimed at me. 

 “You should have trusted me, lieutenant.”

“Stand down Dr. Foy. There’s no escape.”

“I’ll make one.”

Frustrated, the lieutenant held her weapon steady ready to pull the trigger in a moment’s notice. “Look around you doctor. There’s nowhere to hide! You’re in a sophisticated building that’s prepared to handle threats.”

“I’m not a threat, I’m a person who didn’t ask for any of this. No one will use me as their secret weapon.”

“Surrender. Final warning.”

I shrugged. “Funny, I’d tell you the same thing.” With that I flung the lieutenant into the soldiers behind her. Blaster fire again flew, but it was no match for the wave I made using the tank water.  I continued to fight my way out of the building, knocking soldiers left and right.  Nearing the exit, I came upon Captain Greene, ready for combat.

“Captain.”

“Dr. Foy.”

I floated to the floor and raised my fists, prepared to fight. “You don’t have to do this. There’s still time to surrender.”

“Not happening.”

The captain dropped his blaster and raised his fists. “So be it.”

We fought for a good three minutes, each of us landing blows. While I recovered from the hits, the cap didn’t. I remembered to restrain myself, I didn’t want to hurt the captain severely. Though I’m pissed at him for betraying me, I had respect for him and understood his reasons.

Even though he was older, the captain fought as if he was still in his prime. He didn’t get out of breath until near the end of our fight.

“I’ve got to say.” He huffed. “You’ve put up a good fight, but here’s where it ends.”

“Oh?” I mused. 

Just like Wellington and the others, I couldn’t read Captain Greene. And that’s when I saw the shadow. I turned around and was greeted by a fuming Glaser. 

“I said I’d get you freak! Rrraghhhhh!” Holding a buck knife in his hand he charged. In a swift motion I grabbed him and pushed him into the captain. 

After a confusing scuffle, Glaser crumbled onto the floor.

The captain knelt down and checked Glaser’s pulse. “He’s dead doctor.”

“I’m sorry cap. Like you said, ‘It’s smart to prepare for the worst.’”  

“Yes, I did say that didn’t I?”

Captain Greene grabbed his blaster and fired off a round of shots. I deflected each one and snatched the blaster out of his hand. It smashed into the wall next to me as I raised the captain off the ground and brought him within inches of my body.

“Enough games. Where’s Devin?”

“Why don’t you read my mind doctor?” He laughed as I frowned. “You can’t huh? That’s curtesy of Mr. Conrad’s mind block invention.”

Max?

Captain Greene laughed again. “Don’t worry, I’ll tell you. They’re expecting you, you see.”

“Well I don’t want to keep them waiting. Do tell.”

“Dr. Strucker and their guests are at the deep water weapons range.”

“Thank you captain. You’re going to take a nice earned nap now.”

“You do remind me of my daughter.” “

I’m not your daughter. I’m nobody’s daughter.”

Hurt by my words, sadness crept onto the captain’s face. “I’m sorry it had to be this way.”

“I am too. Good night doctor.”

“One last thing, remember to think on all the possibilities and prepare for them.”

“I will.” And with that, Captain Greene went to sleep.

 

23

 

Before I headed to the deep water weapons range, I needed to make a pit stop.  I had to find Max. He was the only ally I had at least that’s what I hoped. Though I wasn’t sure if he used the invention on himself. I had to try, so I reached out and scanned the AUTEC buildings.

Come on, come on… found ya!

Vee? Is that you?

The one and only.

Oh, thank god! I didn’t know what happened to you. Are you okay?

I am but I need your help.

I’m ready and able.

You mean that?

Yes. You can trust me.

I hope so.

What?

Nothing. Look I’m headed to the deep water weapons range. This will be the last stand.

Shit.

You in or not?

Oh, hell yeah! FUCA’s bullied me long enough. It ends tonight.

Captain Greene told me you invented a mind blocker.

Yeah.

I take it you didn’t use it on yourself.

Indeed, I did. That’s why I’m surprised you’re able to contact me.

This could be a trap. He’s either lying or got forced to lie. But again, this entire thing had been one elaborate trap.  I had nothing to lose.

Max where are you right now?

I’m at the FORACS Range. I’m imprisoned.

He wasn’t lying. Focusing on that part of the center, I scanned to see what else I could find.

Is there anyone there with you?

Yes, two FUCA Security-Decker and Morales. Captain Ryan and her crew are here.  They impounded the Calypso Blue.

No lies there either. 

I get why the captain’s imprisoned, but why Decker and Morales?

After you escaped, they complained and refused to do their jobs. They stated it wasn’t what they signed up for.

This bit of news excited me and a plan developed.

Listen, do you think you can convince them to commandeer a ship and head for the weapons range?

Hell yeah! How are we supposed to get free? There’s at least ten guards standing watch.

Leave that to moi.

Vee, I know you’ve got powers now, but they forced me to come up with weapons to stop you, possibly kill you.

Max they won’t kill me, not yet anyhow. Strucker needs me to handle Galloway and Ms. Wade. Besides, you’re my secret weapon, you created these gadgets. Plus, I’ve got seven seas army. Trust me alright?

[_I trust you. We’ll stall until you get here. _]

I glanced at a nearby clock. Thirty minutes till I meet the mysterious and legendary Galloway.

Give me five-no ten minutes tops.

[_May the force be with us. _]

We’re going to need it. 

 

24

 

Concentrate.

After speaking with Max, I focused my energies what I need to next. First I hailed my marine allies.

My friends, I need your help.

Heeding my call, one by one they came. Whales, sharks, and other kinds of fish. Seals, dolphins, even lobsters and crabs approached. In the skies above the birds flew in a circle awaiting my direction.

They would be my first wave of attack.

I tasked them with aerial surveillance while I created a distraction on two fronts. To keep the soldiers busy on the surface, I called upon the wind and rain to create a routine storm. As it brewed, my allies and I headed towards the range beneath the surface.

Nearing the range, I motioned for the animals to create a distraction which would make the scientists curious. Since I couldn’t rely on placing a thought in any of their minds, I used my ability in other ways. I made them hear noises and voices, which distracted them and brought them away from their stations.

Melding myself once more into a part of the ocean, I entered the building through one of the filtration pipes. My eyes in the sky kept me abreast of the actions of the surface. The storm I summoned kept them busy while the fog that slipped in kept visibility to almost zero. So far, everything was going according to plan.

Now I needed to locate my human allies.

Max?

Yeah?

I’m in. Something’s interfering with my powers and I can’t get a fix on you. Where are you?

We’re in a holding cell on two doors down. There’s two guards out front.

How do you know where I’m at?

Somehow I can see you. Not sure how.

It must be our telepathic connection, it’s stronger now.

Really? Wow we’re kinda like Scott and Jean. They’re X-

I know who they are. We’ll discuss that later. Right now I need for you and your crew to be ready.

What’s the signal?

You’ll know it, you can’t miss it. Trust me.

From the pipes I segued into the air vents and continued making my way towards the holding cell. It took only few minutes to arrive at my destination. Once there I studied my targets. The two guards stood at attention, keeping watch over their prisoners. That came to an end when one got called away by their superior over the radio, while his comrade entered the cell to attend to one of the prisoners who needed medical attention.

A few moments later, the cell door once again opened and the former prisoners exited with Max leading them. Captain Ryan and her crew followed while Morales and Decker took up the rear. “Well Mr. Conrad, where’s Dr. Foy?” Max turned and shrugged.

“Pssst, up here.” The group looked up to the vent and watched in stunned silence as I dripped through and landed on the ground in a puddle. Like a T-1000, I pulled myself up from the floor and materialized in my human form. This shocked the group more so.

“Okay that was freaking cool!” Max couldn’t contain his excitement.

“Yeah it’s growing on me.” We smiled at each other for a few seconds until Captain Ryan broke it up. “Ahem. Don’t mean to interrupt the lovefest, but we need to make ourselves scarce.”

I nodded in agreement. “Right. It’s great to see everyone, including guys.” I pointed at Morales and Decker. “No hard feelings I hope.”

Morales grinned and Decker offered his hand. “No hard feelings. Morales and I have been thinking about leaving FUCA for a while now. This was the final straw.”

I shook Decker’s hand. “You realize your decision places your families’ lives in danger.”

Morales moved forward and approached me. “We understood the risks. Our families wouldn’t want us working for a company that experiments on human beings.”

“Are you sure?”

“We’re positive.”

“Only fools are positive.”

It was Decker’s turn to grin. “Then fools we will be.”

Captain Ryan and her crew voiced their agreement. “This is our choice Vee. We’re with you one hundred percent.” “Thanks cap.”

“Anytime. Now I don’t know about you but I’m ready to stick it to Devin and the rest of their FUCA minions.”

“Right, let’s do this.”

“How do you suppose we get out of here?”

A sly grin appeared on the captain’s face. “We’ll take the FUCA submarine that brought us here.”

Morales smirked.

“What? They took my boat, so I’m gonna take theirs. It’s only fair.”

“That’s petty but I’ll allow it.”

“Besides, they’ve got all the tech we’ll need if we’re gonna pull this off. Right Mr. Conrad?”

“Huh? Oh, right!” Max blushed. I sensed him checking me out.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah.”

“As I said before, we’ll discuss everything later. Right now we need to be ready for anything.”

“I’m ready. I just…” He blushed again.

I sensed his thoughts were on me. They were good thoughts and feelings, but I didn’t pry any further. The task at hand required our attention. “Let’s get that submarine.”

25

 

Thanks to my abilities and the help of my marine friends, we commandeered the FUCA submarine.  Captain Ryan grinned.  “Ain’t she a beauty? And she’s got an interesting name, FN2 Graymalkin. Tell us more Max.”

 

 

Max beamed as everyone gathered around him. “Certainly. Ladies and gents welcome aboard the FN2 Graymalkin! The ship’s built from different parts of a US submarine, Los Angeles class.  It’s been retrofitted and updated with FUCA tech and modified for a minimal crew.”

“Wait I thought most of that class is slated to be recycled by the navy?”

“That’s what they tell the public captain, but as you can see that’s not what happened. Technically, the sub did get recycled.”

“I see. Please continue.”

“The FN2 Graymalkin is one of three FUCA subs in service. The FN1 Darkhölme and the FN3 Rasputin are the other two.  Out of the three, the Graymalkin is the smallest of the fleet.  From bow to stern the sub’s 330 feet in length, while the beam’s 33 feet. Displacement is generally 6,900 tons submerged, speed’s 25+ knots.”  

Captain Ryan’s impressed. “Small but fast, we’re going to need the speed. How are the armaments?”  

“Ah yes. Like its donor, the Graymalkin’s equipped with the best navy weaponry available. Tomahawk missiles, VLS tubes-SSN 719 and later, MK48 torpedoes, and four torpedo tubes.” 

Morales whistled.

“And that’s not including the FUCA tech.” Max handed Decker a folder.  “The sub runs on renewable energy.”

“What kind?”

“A hydrogen and capture method.  It simultaneously extracts carbon dioxide and hydrogen from seawater. And the refining doesn’t need more chemicals or creating toxic byproducts to do so. The FUCA model’s based on the navy’s Electrolytic Cation Exchange Module. Ours is more efficient and less costly of course.”

I smirked. “That’s FUCA’s way of doing things.”  

Max grinned. “Yep.”  

“Does the company intend to build more subs and for what purpose?”

“Aside from the public goals of ocean exploration, etc. the private goals are unknown. Only four people have the answer.” 

“Nurse Hughes, Devin, Ms. Wade, and Galloway himself.”

“Then let’s get this ship up and running so we can ask them ourselves.”

The captain nodded. “Right. Mr. Conrad if you be so kind to give us a tour of our new ship.”

“Right this way.”

 

 

After the tour of the sub, we returned to the bridge. Captain Ryan settled into the captain’s chair.  After doling out instructions to Jesse who echoed them to the crew, she called me over to her chair.

“Listen, my crew’s the best you can have. In the future we’ll need more crewmen. Right now we’ll do our best to keep this sub up and running.”

“You’ll need an extra hand.”

“For the moment.”

Our joint efforts got the sub running, and we ventured further into the Tongue of the Ocean, away from the deep water weapons range. When she thought we had put enough distance between us and the weapons range, the captain ordered the sub to maintain its position.

Concerned filled the captain’s face as she looked me over. “My god lass, you look like hell.”

“I feel like hell.” The strain of assisting with the sub, maintaining a storm, and talking to the animals built.

“If I could get something to eat, it would help.”

“I’m right ahead of you. Melissa’s working on dinner as we speak. Take a load off in one of the cabin rooms and relax for a bit. We’ve got this.”

“Awesome, I’m famished.”

“You got to conserve your strength. Let up a little.”

“Will do.” I stopped focusing on the storm and let it run its course. It would end in a few more hours so that bought us time. I alerted the birds to keep an eye on things and if anything was amiss to contact me. They said they would and I thanked them for their help.

Letting up helped enormously, but it was Chef Melissa’s cooking that did the trick. Homemade chicken and gnocchi soup, garlic bread and tortellini. Recognizing that I was still hungry, the chef brought me a pepperoni pizza. A tear of appreciation ran down my check as I scarfed the delicious meal down. “Pepperoni heaven!”

Chef Melissa laughed as she exited the room I now called my own. “You’re a mess.”

Moments later, Max poked his head in. “How you feeling?”

“Reenergized and ready to rumble.”

“Great! Hey listen, if we survive this ordeal would you be interested in having dinner with me?”

“Well I-”

I hadn’t thought about the aftermath much.

“I don’t know Max. The ocean’s my home now, not land. I don’t think it would work out between us.”

Max’s brow furrowed. “I see… never mind then.” He turned and walked away.

 

 

He’s a good man you know.

I know, but it won’t work.

Things always have a way of working out.

I know for a fact that isn’t true.

You lost your family and your life’s work. You believe yourself to be alone.

I am.

But you have a new family.

They’ve risked enough already; I can’t endanger them anymore after this.

They chose this. You can’t control their fates.

I’m protecting them.

Are you? Or are you afraid of letting people in.

I did that before and look where that got me. I’m a freak now. My mom did that, she helped others and all they did was be mean to her.

But she continued to help, she didn’t let it stop her.

It hurt her! Look around Mami, people hurt other people, it’s what they’re good at. I’m done I won’t hurt others.

But you’re hurting yourself.

It’s better this way.

Is it?

“I… I don’t know.”

“Don’t know what?”

 

 

“Huh?” Captain Ryan’s quartermaster Jesse stood at my door.

“Oh nothing. Sorry I was mediating.”

“Trying to figure it out huh?”

“Yeah.”

She looked me square in the eye. “You can’t always do that by yourself.” I hung my head. “Cap sent me to get you. We’ve arrived.”

“I’ll be there in a minute.” Jesse gave me a salute and headed back to the bridge. I stood and glanced at myself in the mirror. “Guess I can’t.”

With a new resolve, I returned to the bridge, ready to face whatever the night brought me.

 

 

 

 

26

 

“You sent for me cap?”

She swiveled her chair to face me. “Yes doctor. We have arrived.” She paused to appraise my physical condition. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m ready to head into the unknown.”

“You sure?”

“Yes. I need for you to hang back. The range’s capable of tracking up to 63 in-water objects at the same time. And it covers 500 square nautical miles. We can’t go head on without them noticing us. I can use my powers to sneak me into the range. My marine friends will do their best to keep you hidden and out of sight.”

Max wasn’t happy.  “You can’t go in alone Vee!”

“I don’t want to put any of you in any more danger. If I need help, I’ll signal.”

“Doc we can’t just sit here and do nothing.” Jesse protested.

I nodded in agreement. “You’re both right. I can’t do this by myself. It’s hard for me to ask for help. For a while now I’ve been alone, I didn’t depend on anyone but myself. Now I’ve got a crew who got my back. I appreciate it.”

Captain Ryan beamed. “Dr. Foy’s right. We can’t go in there, guns blazing. We’ll hang back here and keep any back up from coming to Galloway and company’s aid. Doctor you sneak in there and kick ass, but leave a few of their asses for us understood?”

I nodded. “Understood.”

The captain swiveled to face the crew. “Code yellow.”

“Aye captain!” Jesse and the rest of the gang focused on their stations.

 

 

I called upon my ocean friends once more and asked them to keep my human friends safe. They complied and kept a subtle but casual presence around the Graymalkin. The crew watched in awe as marine life swam around the submarine.

With the[_ Graymalkin_] protected, it was time to head out. 

“Good luck, lass. Keep us informed.”

I saluted the captain and right before I turned into a watery apparition and seeped out of the sub, Max stopped me.  “Vee wait!”

“What is it Max?”

“I’m coming with you. I worked with Galloway. You might need my help.”

“Okay.”

“ Don’t argue! I- Did you just say okay?”

“Yup. You’re right, I might need your help. Besides, we need to discuss our dinner plans.” 

Bright eyed, Max did a mid-leap into the air. “That’s great! Ahem, I mean cool.” I grinned at him while Jesse and the captain shook their heads and laughed.

Embarrassed, Max headed towards the diving berth. “Um, yeah we’ve better go.” 

“Max, where are you going?”

“Vee, we need to get our diving equipment and-” I shook my head at him and he face-palmed. “Right, I forgot you got a cool way to get us to the deep weapons range.”

“Uh-huh.”

He sped walked back more embarrassed than before, while the rest of the crew looked on and snickered. Standing next to me, he looked at me with impatience. “Well?”

“What?”

“What are you waiting for?”

“We ought to say something cool before we make our awesome exit.” “

We should?”

“Yeah I mean something memorable like ‘energize’.”

Max shook his head.  It was his turn to laugh and for me to feel embarrassed. “Vee just get us to there.”

“Yes Mr. Scrooge.”

“Bah! Humbug!”  

I melded our bodies into the ocean. We seeped through the hull of the Graymalkin and headed towards the deep water weapons range.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the dark? It would be like sleep without dreams.” 

― Werner Herzog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IV

 

REFORMATION

 

 

 

27

 

This is fucking awesome!

I know right?

Max and I were in the midst of the many marine animals that encircled the Graymalkin. Though we’re headed into a dangerous unknown, we took a few minutes to take in the scenery.  This might be the last good memory we experienced.

I appreciate talking to you this way.

You’re okay with us sharing our thoughts with each other?

Yeah, kinda feels like a mixture of a mind meld and-

Drifting?

Yeah!

It’s an interesting thing to behold for sure. But I prefer not use my telepathy every time. In fact, I enjoy moving things with my mind more.

Why?

[_Telekinesis’ not as intimate. _]

Oh, I see.

Max appeared disappointed.

But I don’t mind having this connection with you.

His eyes lit up once more.

You don’t?

I don’t. I appreciate the equal sharing and giving. The last person I shared personal things with only took. They never gave something of themselves. It was hard to get to understand them when they distanced themselves from me. In the end, I’m glad we didn’t work out. I wasn’t good enough for them and when I tried to be just friends with them; they didn’t even try.  They weren’t there for me when I asked for their help.

Where are they now?

Oh, they got moved away, got married and had a child.  They didn’t even tell me. I found out through a co-worker of ours.

Wow.

Right? In any event they weren’t worth the trouble.

With the weapons range in our sights, I stopped us. I wasn’t sure where Galloway and the others are within the building.  We had a large measure of ground to cover. If I narrow the group’s location, that would take part of the burden off my shoulders. The question was, can they pick up my scans?

Should I?

Might as well.  They might be tracking us right now.

You’ve got a point.

Try cutting your search in half. That way you’ll be looking at roughly 250 square nautical miles instead of 500. With the less distance to scan, they might not pick it up on their radars.

I followed Max’s advice and proceeded with the scan. A brief fuzzy image appeared in my mind and then the image disappeared. Next a voice spoke.

I’m waiting for you.

It wasn’t Mami Wata who called out to me this time. The voice was deep coarse baritone, belonging to a man. Maybe the voice belonged to Galloway?

Whoa!

You heard the voice Max?

He shuddered.

Yup. It was so creepy. Eesh. Guess they’re expecting you.

Yeah let’s not keep them waiting.

Wait. I want to tell you something.

Do tell or forever hold your peace.

If we survive this, I’m looking forward to getting to know you better.

Me too.

I didn’t get to tell you this when you first woke up, but I love your new hairstyle.

I grinned and playful punched Max in the shoulder[_. _]

Let’s go.

We headed towards the northern section of the compound. Once there, I seeped us through the wall. No guards greeted us as we phased through the wall and returned to our physical forms. Max glanced around in disappointment. 

“What, no welcoming party?” I shrugged.

“Guess not. Let’s keep moving. We’ll use our mind meld-er-whatever you want to call it to communicate.”

Max saluted. “Roger, roger.” I shook my head and we headed down the hall.

 

 

 

28

 

All was quiet on the northern front of the AUTEC deep water weapons range. In fact, it was too quiet. Weapons Range North was a perpetual ghost town.

“This is strange. There should be navy personnel stationed throughout, but nobody’s home.”

“You think it’s a trap?”

“Oh yeah it’s definitely a trap.”

I sighed. Enough was enough. “I tire of this cat-and-mouse game.”

Max nodded. “I’m with you, boss lady. What are you going to do?”

“It’s time to call them out and have ourselves a good ole’ fashion showdown.”

Max grinned in agreement and mimicked a cowboy with his response. “I reckon so.”

I sat cross-legged on the hallway floor and called out to Galloway.

I’m here, where are you?

No response.

Galloway! Galloway!

For five minutes, I continued calling out his name. The only reply I received was silence. Then the voice spoke into the void.

Hello, child. You made it.

Where are you?

Why I’m beneath feet.

I’m tired of this. Show yourself Galloway!

But of course.

In an instant, two big muscular clawed hands shredded upwards through the floor. Max watched helplessly screaming my name as the hands grabbed and pulled me beneath the floor.

 

Wake up, child.

Huh?

Awake child.

My eyelids now opened, I caught sight of a huge figure approaching me from the shadows. As they came closer and closer, the foul scent of rotten fish increased in pungency. I tried to back away but my body froze.

“Do not make any attempts to move. I control you now.”

“I beg to differ.”

With my powers I pushed back and the stinky figure took a slight step backwards.

“Humph. While I admire your stubbornness, your try proves to be a futile one.” 

“We’ll find out won’t we?” I continued to push back with the willpower I could muster, but the result was the same.

Why I can’t I stand?

“Because I don’t allow it.” Now in full view, I looked at the mysterious figure who held me against my will.  What greeted me was a person who was part man and part monster; a humanoid great white shark. He was six feet tall and weighed around 200 pounds of muscle though he had a lean figure. 

His gray augmented flesh protected against any physical attacks and the deep ocean pressure. And.  His webbed hands and feet bore retractable claws.  Like mine, his gills were on both sides of his neck allowing him to breathe underwater. With no hair on his head, a small gray fin protruded from his back.  A robust, large, conical snout stood in for his nose. He’s graced with enhanced strength and endurance.

“That outmatches your own, child.”

“I take it you’re Galloway.”

The man smiled revealing his serrated teeth and the horrid stench of rotten fish. “You are correct.”

“Where are we?”

“We’re beneath the deep weapons range, in my grotto.”

“Where are the others?”

“Over here.” I turned to see Devin, Nurse Hughes, and Max all held at bay by a blaster wielding woman with blonde hair and blue eyes. Her brown skin shined and gave off a cocoa butter scent that counteracted the rotten fish. 

Ms. Wade had an impeccable outfit. She wore a long sleeved black liv lace shirt. The shirt matched the classic black tailoring Jasmine trousers.  Handcrafted snake earrings graced her ears.  She wore loop caged faux nubuck heels and a gold Mestige Women’s The Bradberry watch.  Black square frame reading glasses and a matte liquid lipstick in a metallic plum hue completed the look.

“You must be Ms. Wade.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you Dr. Foy.” Ms. Wade appeared comfortable pointing the blaster at her prisoners. She didn’t seem impressed by them. Devin’s glare-which usually scared the pants off people-didn’t faze her either. There was something familiar about her, it was if I’ve met her before.

I returned my gaze to Galloway. “What are you going to do to us?”

“Why nothing so long as you don’t get in my way.”

“Oh I plan to.”

“Then death awaits you.”

“I’ve died four times now in my life only to come back stronger.”  

Galloway laughed for a few moments and then brought me closer to him. So close was I he stench from his mouth almost made me faint. He sneered and looked me up and down with his lifeless black eyes. “You won’t come back this time.” Galloway grunted and tossed me against the wall like a piece of paper.

I blacked out. 

29

 

Wake up, child. Wake up.

I groaned and rose to meet my tormentor, Galloway. I nursed my bruised ribs and glared at my monstrous enemy. “Ya know, I’m tired of you calling me child.”

“Ah, but you are one. You don’t understand the mysteries of the deep blue sea.” 

I spat out blood which concerned Nurse Hughes. “Please Mr. Galloway, let me tend to her wounds.”

He growled and motioned to Ms. Wade who let the nurse approach me. “While she’s helping, why don’t you tell me the mysteries.”  Galloway grinned, and the stench became overpowering. I used my abilities to block the smell from affecting Nurse Hughes and I.  

 

 

Galloway moved towards a trough filled with a dark gooey liquid. With his mind, Galloway used the liquid to tell a story. “Life began in the ocean. The sea holds the power to create and destroy. My life’s dedicated to discovering the origin of life. And I’ve found the answer. Do you know of the Lucayan people?  No, you don’t. You’re a child.”

I gave Galloway the middle finger.  Angered, he leapt to attack but Ms. Wade held him back. I made a mental note of the hold she had over him and kept the observation in the back of my mind.

“‘Lucayan’ is the English translation of the Spanish word Lucayos. That word’s derived from the Taino Lukku-Cairi which is what the people used for themselves. It means “people of the islands.” The Lukku-Cairi were the first to settle the Bahamas.  European explorers caused their destruction. Those barbarians raped, pillaged, and enslaved the Lukku-Cairi.  By 1520, the Lukku-Cairi were no more.”

Galloway balled his fists and let out a deep growl. “These wretched explorers desecrated not only the Lukku-Cairi, but also their land. They valued gold and slavery the most. These so-called explorers didn’t appreciate a culture that was so rich and magnificent. The fools, the damn fools.”

Galloway’s eyes rolled back into his head and turned white. The grotto shook and Ms. Wade’s hand rested on Galloway’s shoulder to calm him. “Calm yourself Wendell. We don’t want another quake. Remember why we’re here.” 

I interrupted. “Yes, why are we here? I understand your family history and how you became what you are. What I don’t comprehend is what your plans are.”

Galloway stroked his chin as he directed an intense stare at me. “Ah, you’ve read the files, they’re incomplete.  While you are aware of my family history and how I became what I am, you don’t recognize the why.”

“I realize you’re obsessed with the ocean and discovering the origin of life.”

“I am. I’ll admit that. They are my passion, every being longs for something. But not everyone acts. I acted and there’s been costs.”

“You’ve lost friends and family. Your sister stands out in particular.” 

Sadness engulfed Galloway’s face. This was the second time he appeared vulnerable.  “Eloise Corrine Galloway. May she rest in peace.” 

“She’s dead?” 

“Yes, my sister and I had a debilitating skin disease, epidermolytic hyperkeratosis. It’s rare only 1 in 250,000 people have it. Gene therapy has proven to be the best solution, but it didn’t work for us.  You see, the disease mutated in both of our bodies. It dumbfounded the many doctors we sought out.  There was no cure.”

“Is that why you went to the black hole?”

“Yes. I mistakenly thought it would cure me. In a way it did.

“And that’s why you retreated from the public eye.”

“Yes. I also wanted to focus on my passion.”

“Despite her illness, your sister didn’t retreat. She had a public wedding.”

“She did, thanks to FUCA technology.  I created a holographic watch that she used while in public. But it wasn’t enough… the disease crippled her so she went mad and ended her life. Her husband loved her to the end and followed her into the afterlife.”

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Yes my loss… you know from the files my family hates failing. Eloise’s death haunted me for a long time. But I’ve found a solution. One that will create a new world, a better one.”

“And what is it?”

“The blue holes of Andros. Religion played a pivotal role in Lucayan society. They worshiped many gods that controlled the rain, sun, wind, and hurricanes.  Their strongest mythology is with the ocean.  They believed the blue holes hold the powers of creation.  According to Lucayan legend, along with the sun and the moon, the blue holes are the origin of their people. When a Lucayan died, they got buried inside of the caves. The caves are a gateway to the afterlife.”

My eyes lit up. Was it possible that the blue holes possessed magical qualities like the black hole?

“Are you saying that you plan to resurrect your sister?”

“Yes, but I’ll do so much more.”

“The world is a vampire’s victim. There are so many people sucking the life force out of it. We have lost our roots. We must return to the sea.  I intend to recreate the world. Using FUCA and with the help of the naïve and foolish navy I intend to build an undersea kingdom.”

Hope replaced the sadness. He had a steadfast belief in what he was doing.  So firm was his belief in his cause, it made me wonder whether I could sway him sway from it.

“What happens to those who don’t agree with your ideas?”

A cloud of anger rushed flooded his face. It dissipating the hope that had resided there.  The grotto shook once more. “Any who oppose me will drown and return to their watery graves from whence they came.”

“What about those who support you?” Devin inquired. Throughout this, they had remained a quiet observer.  Galloway looked over to them and smiled. He motioned for Ms. Wade to release Devin.

“Ah my child. It’s fate that we’re reunited now in this place. You will be at my side as our kingdom rises. But first I must heal you of the sickness that’s attempting to overtake your mind.”

“What’s he talking about Devin?”

“Galloway’s my father.”

“Say what?” Max blurted out.

“He’s my father Mr. Conrad.”

Galloway nodded his head. “It is true.”

I’m stunned. “Well, I didn’t see that coming.”

“I sure as hell didn’t.” Nurse Hughes shook her head in disbelief. “Why didn’t you tell me Dr. Strucker?”

“At first I wasn’t sure. My mother told me on her deathbed. To find proof, I researched everything I could on the Galloways. But that wasn’t enough.”

Understanding, I face palmed. “So that’s why you went to work at FUCA.”

“Yes. I needed to get to know him, and I needed a DNA sample to confirm it.”

 “Devin do you have the same condition as your father?”

“No.  I suffer from the madness that’s plagued the family for generations. The blue holes will cure me of it.”

I turned to Galloway. “Why not use the black hole?” “It only transforms. One must venture into the blue holes for healing.”

“Will the blue holes transform Devin?”

Galloway nodded. 

I had another question. “Galloway when your transformation occurred, did you also hear a voice?”

Startled, Galloway shook his head. “No. What voice did you hear?” It was Galloway’s turn to listen as I told him the tale of my childhood wish.

 

 

After hearing the story, Galloway’s concern didn’t leave though he attempted to mask it. “No one spoke to me in the black hole. I only transformed, no explanation given.”

“Then how did you know about the blue holes?”

Galloway smiled and summoned the dark gooey liquid once more. “Afterwards, I received visions that were vivid and exact in what they shown. It’s what led me to this grotto and how I was able to decipher the secrets of the blue holes.”

I pointed to the liquid that hovered overhead. “And what does this do?”

The smile turned into a sneer. “It’s a weapon. One of many that are at my disposal.” He pointed at me. “Now that you know my plans, what say you? Will you join my child and I?”

“What about me?” Ms. Wade wrapped her arms around Galloway’s thick neck. “Am I not to rule by your side?”

She looked so innocent as she inquired about her situation. In a fury, Galloway swatted her away and she bounced against the wall and hit the floor. Whatever power Ms. Wade held over him, faded away in an instant. Galloway wasn’t buying her act any longer.

30

 

Turning to face his former puppet master, Galloway picked Ms. Wade up from the floor. “Why my dear Ms. Wade, your services are no longer required.” He hissed. Galloway then wrung her neck as if she was a ragged doll and released an uncanny roar from his mouth that shook the grotto. I tried to stop him, but he blocked me again with his power.

Ms. Wade’s eyes bulged as she looked at the man turned monster who held her. Her body dangled as Galloway’s webbed hands gripped Ms. Wade’s neck. They squeezed tighter and tighter.  The woman’s eyes popped out of their sockets and her breath was no more. Galloway threw his deceased assistant’s body to the floor.

Stunned, my body reveled in shock from what it had seen. Max had passed out after witnessing the brutal execution. Devin experienced a maniacal outburst throughout the entire ordeal.  Nurse Hughes attempted to calm Devin.

With a newfound arrogance and courage, Galloway stood over me. Aside from the horrid stench, he reveled in his effort to bend me to his will. “I will ask one final time. Will you join me?” 

I glared at him. “Fuck you.”

SMACK!

“Ugh!”

THUD!

After bouncing against the wall, I found myself on the floor. “We got to stop meeting this way.” I muttered to it as Galloway’s huge shadow engulfed me, wielding the gooey liquid.

 

 

“This liquid’s called dark water. It’s an ancient weapon created centuries ago by Lucayan priests.  As you know, water is one of the main components that make up the human body. The volume of water found in a human body ranges from 50-75 percent. Without it, humans die. And considering you’re now more part of the ocean, well you get the picture.”

I shuttered as the black liquid came nearer. “Yeah, I get it.”

Galloway’s sinister grin reappeared showing his teeth and foul breath. He was enjoying watching his prey squirm before delivering the final blow. “The Dark Water will kill you in a precise and slow manner. It’ll dissolve all of the water within your body.”

“That’s going to be fun.”

“Oh it will be. It’s a shame I can’t stay. I have a world to plunge into the ocean and recreate. But don’t worry, you won’t die alone. Your friend Mr. Conrad will be with you throughout the whole ordeal. The grotto will self-destruct in seven minutes.  It’ll take both of you and this part of the weapons range to the bottom of the sea.”

With his mind, Galloway pinned me against the wall. He ordered the dark water to enter my body by seeping through my skin. I cried out in pain. “Do not worry child, the end will come soon for you. ‘Tis a pity you didn’t join us. Your abilities are useful in the new world… Ah but it wasn’t meant to be. Farewell.”

After the liquid had finished entering my body, Galloway let me fall to the floor. He then pressed a button next to the trough that had contained the dark water. An alarm went off signaling the self-destruct sequence.  Galloway then engulfed himself, Devin and Nurse Hughes inside a bubble. They seeped through the grotto walls and into the ocean.  The excruciating pain forced me to black out. The last thing I saw was Max still lying unconscious, and the dead body of Ms. Kellie Wade nowhere to be found.

Galloway was wrong, I would die alone.

 

31

 

As I laid unconscious on the floor of Galloway’s grotto, images flashed in my mind. The images were my memories of the sea, from my childhood until the present day.  My memories were good ones. So many memories scrolled through as if they were part of one complete cinematic picture.

There’s the many times I’ve gone to the beach with my family. We had delicious picnics and waded through the tumbling waves…

[_Me playing intramural beach volleyball, my team came in third… _]

An evening stroll and kiss on the beach…

Both of my college graduations both held on the beach…

The first of many research dives…

Stepping onto the Calypso Blue for the first time…

My dive into the black hole… the explosion and transformation…

While these memories flashed and disappeared, one lingered. And I began to relive it.

 

 

I found myself returning to my 30th birthday, a day of fun at Surf City USA, aka Huntington Beach.  The joyous occasion soon turned dark and ominous. A juvenile great white shark attacked and knocked me off my board. When the lifeguard and my fellow surfers reached me, I had been unconscious for five minutes. The shark bit off three of my toes on my left foot.

That’s what happened. But as I relived the experience the way things occurred changed. I found myself alone on the water. When I looked towards the beach, it was empty.  That’s when the nightmare began.

Instead of the young juvenile shark, a huge fin popped up a few feet away from my board. Surrounded by the dark water, the fin raced towards me. Desperate to get away, I swam as fast as I was able.  I kept plunging one arm into the water after another after another as I swam freestyle. But it was to no avail.

The fin slammed into my board, knocking me off it. As I swam up for air, the dark water attempted to smother me, but I did not break free.  While I struggled, the fin circled around, until it re-submerged a few feet away.   A moment later, the fin came up again and sped towards me. Just before it rammed into me, the creature rose from the water, jaws opened ready to devour.

 

 

As I opened my eyes, a piercing scream escaped my mouth “Aaaaaaaaah!” “Vee!” Max kneeled over me as cracks started to appear around the grotto. “Vee are you okay?” “No. Galloway… he did something to me… the pain! It’s too much! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!” 

I started to convulse on the floor, the dark water oozed from my lips, nose, ears and eyes. With the self-destruct countdown coming to an end, the cracks on the walls grew bigger. There was no noise, I saw Max yelling into his radio. Then the darkness returned.

 

 

 “Vee? Can you hear me?”

“Quick, lay her on the table here.”

“Vee! Please answer me. She’s not responding.”

“What the hell happened?”

“We met Galloway, he killed Ms. Wade. Dr. Strucker and Nurse Hughes went with him to the blue holes. He’s going to sink the world into the ocean and create an undersea kingdom of some kind.”

“Well shit.”

“Quiet Decker. What did Galloway do to Dr. Foy, Mr. Conrad?”

“I’m not sure captain. I passed out after he murdered Ms. Wade… it was brutal! I didn’t see her body though. The fucker must have eaten her. Whatever he did to Vee, it has to do with black liquid that’s oozing out of her eyes. Before she passed out, she called it dark water.”

“Dark water? Hmm…”

“Can you help her Annalise?”

“I’ll do what I can captain, but I’m going to need help.”

“And you’ve got it.”

“Thanks Decker.”

“Scan’s finished Annalise.”

“Synopsis Morales?”

“It’s alarming. Somehow, that gooey stuff-the dark water-is evaporating the water in Dr. Foy’s body. I don’t know if we can save her.”

 “We’ve got to!”

“Mr. Conrad. I know you care about Dr. Foy, but we can’t let our emotions get in the way.  We need to focus.”

“I’m sorry captain. But you don’t know what Galloway’s capable of. You didn’t see what that monster did… We have to save her.”

“Captain, the water in her body’s evaporating at a slow rate.”

“Meaning?”

 “We need to create a way to halt the evaporation process.”

“How Annalise? The way Galloway talked about the blue holes, was as if they held magical properties.”

“Remember Clarke’s third law: ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’”

“Are you saying that the dark water’s an advanced technology?”

“It’s possible captain.”

“Annalise you may be right! This may be an ancient biological weapon.”

“Let’s put our heads together and figure this out. Time’s running out for Dr. Foy, us, and the rest of the world.”

32

 

I heard my crewmate’s conversation but I’m unable to respond.  My body didn’t move no matter how hard I attempted to do so. The dark water lapped up the water in my body in slow but methodical way, burning as an unstoppable California wildfire.  It was my Smaug, and I needed to find a Bard the Bowman of my own to defeat the poison. Verbal and physical communication were out of the question. So I tried my last recourse telepathy.

Max?

Vee?

Max?

I’m here Vee, we’re back on the Graymalkin.  Back in the grotto, I woke up to your screams. You were in so much pain and had passed out. I managed to get us to an escape hatch. Our crew got to us right before the grotto exploded.

Thank you. I appreciate what you and the crew did. Are you’re okay?

Yes. I’m not hurt but you… you’re in a foul way.

The dark water burns so much.

Right now, you’re in an induced coma.

We’ve worked on a way to stop the dissolving for good. So far nothing’s worked. We’ve tried increasing the humidity, adding additives, but those methods haven’t produced great results.

Have you considered lowering the temperature?

That’s what we’re working now. We’ve placed ice packs over your whole body. And the captain ordered the crew to dive deeper since the temperature drops the farther you go. So far that’s working. Not in the way we hoped.

I’ll try lowering my body temperature.

That’ll place a strain on your body.

Can’t be any worse than this.

You’ve got a point.

Alert the crew.

Will do.

Max hailed the captain, and she, Jesse, and Dr. Annalise Louise Ferguson entered the room. While they escape me visually, I sensed their presence as they entered the medical bay. I attempted to speak with them using telepathy. Speaking to Max placed an enormous strain on my body.  I expected speaking to a group of people might add to the hellfire my body’s induced.

No pain, no gain right?

Max.

Yeah?

Tell them I’m going to communicate with everyone.

Not a good idea Vee.

I understand. This will strain my body.  But this will be easier instead of you relaying what I said.

Wait, there might be a better way.

What do you mean?

What if you used my body to communicate with everyone?

You mean kinda how Professor Xavier did in the movies?

Yeah!

Can’t hurt to try. The stress won’t be as brutal if I communicated with the four of you individually.  Tell me when you have pain okay? Alright here goes.

Will do.

I reached out and honed in on Max’s mind. My approach required swift and cautious action. “Ooh!” Max gripped the adjustable side rail of my bed and grimaced in pain.

Are you okay?

[_Yeah it just hurts a little bit. Feels like a migraine.  _]

I should stop.

No Vee. I’m good. Go ahead.

One misstep and I could injure Max and myself further, or kill us both.  Dr. Ferguson helped Max to his feet. “Tell us what’s going on.” “Vee wants to talk to everyone at once. We’re attempting a merge so she can use my body to communicate.” 

I reached out again with caution and entered his mind.  Upon entering, a huge tidal wave of Max’s memories swept over me. All at once I’m immersed in the many moments of his life from birth up to the present. The astounding memories evoked many emotions for both of us and it was hard to focus at. It took us a few minutes to adjust and get in sync with each other. With Dr. Ferguson’s help, we got ourselves together and spoke as one to our crewmates.

Needless to say, it freaked them out. 

But it elated Dr. Ferguson. “This is so weird and cool.” Jesse wasn’t sure what to make of it.  While impressed, Captain Ryan acted as if she wasn’t. She kept a level head throughout our conversation.

We need a permanent solution to the dark water.”  Max and I spoke in unison.  

We’re the mermaid Stevonnie.

Not exactly, but I see your point.

How are you feeling Vee?

My body’s still on fire but nothing’s changed, at least I hope.

Dr. Ferguson paced around the room. “Lowering your body temperature is working but not fast enough. The weapon is taking a huge toll on your body, not to mention the strain of using your powers.  At this point I’m not sure what else we can do.”

Maybe I can force it out of my system.”

The doctor shook her head. “Too risky. You’re already straining yourself. If you try anything else, you’ll die.” Frustrated, Max’s body shook. I felt his emotions swirling around mine. His concern for my wellbeing hit me big time. No one had cared for me the way he did in a long time.  It was overwhelming.

Ugh!” The strain of our feelings pushed me out of his mind. Max staggered backwards, but the captain and Jesse caught him before he fell. “Dammit.” He muttered.

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah I’m fine doc. Just a bit dizzy.”

Dr. Ferguson pointed at a chair. “Let him rest a bit.” Jesse and the captain helped him over to the chair. “Sit for five minutes. I’ll get more ice packs.” The doctor shook her head in defeat and exited the room.

Sorry Max.

I’m fine Vee. It’s me who’s sorry. I don’t want you to die.

We all got to die sometime.

It’s not your time yet!

I don’t know what do to Max. We’re out of options.

Suddenly, a familiar feeling came over me. I sensed something familiar… no someone familiar… and then she appeared.

“No, you’re not.”

From the shadows of the medical bay, Mami Wata emerged.

 

33

 

Captain Ryan and Jesse kept their blasters pointed at the water goddess, ready to shoot.  Angered, Mami Wata’s snake hissed. Before it escalated, I merged with Max again. Ignoring the painful strain, we stood between them.[_“Wait! She’s a friend-well more of an acquaintance. She helped me with my escape.” _] 

The captain and her quartermaster put their weapons away while Mami Wata and her pet looked on in a calm manner.  “Who the hell is this Dr. Foy?”

Captain, may I introduce you to the water goddess Mami Wata. I met her after my second escape. She and her snake removed the tracking device implanted in my brain.”

Shocked, Jesse’s chin dropped and her mouth opened wide in amazement. Captain Ryan appeared unimpressed with it. Though we noticed her eyes flicker for a second before she regained her composure. The captain extended her hand to the goddess who didn’t returned the gesture. Instead, a sly smile appeared on her lips and her snake made a noise akin to a cat purring.

Jesse interrupted. “So you’re a goddess eh?”  

Still merged, Max, and I turned to gaze at the goddess. Aside from the human legs and feet that replaced the fish tail, she looked the same from when I first met her. Mami returned our gazed, impressed at what she saw. “I see you’ve learned to merge your consciousness with another. That’s hard for an Orniainthi to master right away. But then again, you aren’t no ordinary Orniainthi are you?”

Orniainthi?  I wanted to learn more, but there the strain of the merge grew. “We can’t stay together much longer. You mentioned that we’re not out of options. Can you help us remove the dark water out of my body?”

Mami mused. “Is that what he did to you? I’m impressed.”

Annoyed, Jesse approached the goddess. “Look here, I don’t care if you’re a god or not. Our friend’s in danger, hell the whole world’s in danger. Can you help her or not?”

The goddess eyes flicked in anger and her snake hissed again in an aggressive stance. “My dear child, I admire your boldness. Do care not to anger me again or the next breath you take might be your last.”

Pissed, Jesse came right up to Mami’s face. “I give zero fucks for who you are and what you can do. You better be sure to help my friend or it’ll be you who’ll worry how you’ll breathe. I’m ready to meet my maker so do your worse.”

The two glared at each other.  After a few moments, the staring competition cascaded into laughter. Mami turned to the captain, and I and smiled. “You have good friends Viola. You’ll need them for what’s coming.”

And what’s coming?”

“The end of the world. That is, if you don’t stop Galloway.”

Can’t you stop him?”

“No.”

You can’t or you won’t?”

“Can’t. I’m limited in what I can do.  I thought by getting close to him and having his ear, I could prevent or slow his plans… but it wasn’t enough.”

“Wait a damn minute!” It was the captain’s turn to get in Mami’s face. “Are you saying that you are-I mean were-Ms. Kellie Wade?” 

Again the snake hissed and the goddess’ eyes flickered once more. “You humans sure have gotten bolder over the centuries.”

The captain took a step back. “I mean no disrespect goddess.  There’s a part to this story that we don’t understand. Dr. Foy’s dying and our time’s precious. If you could give a brief explanation…”

Impressed, Mami Wata smiled. “Your friends are not only bold, they’re also wise. Well, I’ll tell you. But first, let’s remove the dark water out of Viola okay Ejo?” Ejo murmured a hiss.

We’ll go ahead and split up.”

“Do not do that. Because of your merging, the dark water has entered your mate’s system. It’ll be easier to remove it if you’re both together as one.” Our emotions swirled together as Max’s cheeks turned red.  Mami noticed and grinned. “A perfect match.”

Ejo approached Max’s forehead just as he had done before to me. Concerned, the captain and Jesse ventured closer. I raised Max’s hand to stop them. “It’s okay. This might freak you out, but it’ll get rid of the poison… right?”

The goddess frowned. “You doubt my abilities?” 

Well, you can’t stop Galloway.” 

She scoffed. “That doesn’t mean I’m weak.” “Sorry.”

Mouth opened, Ejo stood ready to devour the dark water while Mami chanted. Both Max and I felt the poison move through our bodies and seep through our skins and into the air of the medical lab. Unlike removing the tracer, the removal of the dark water was painful. The searing pain became too much and Max’s body fell to the floor while it blasted me from his consciousness.  Before I faded completely, I heard the concerned shouts from my crewmates.

 

“Dr. Foy? Dr. Foy can you hear me?”

I opened my eyes and Dr. Ferguson greeted me as she hovered over checking my vitals. “How do you feel?”

“Renewed. The burning pain’s gone.” I glanced over and found Max lying on another bed. “Is he okay?”

“Yes. He’s resting, as you ought to be.”

“I think I’ve had enough rest.”

I rose out of bed and walked over where Max lay. He was asleep. 

“Want to talk to him?”

“Not right now. Let him rest, he needs it. He’s not the one I need to speak to right now.” I turned around to find Mami Wata waiting for me. Ejo hugged her bare breasts as he threw a curious glance my way.

“Let’s talk over there.” I pointed to Dr. Ferguson’s office. Mami disappeared and then reappeared as I entered the room.  “Tell me everything. Don’t leave nothing out.” “As you wish.”

 

34

 

Mami Wata took a seat on the long couch and reclined. As she sat, the goddess reminded me of Mariah Carey resting on a litter carried by shirtless men. I sat in the doctor’s office chair. “Tell me everything, leave nothing out.”

“A few years ago, I experienced a vision. It wasn’t clear-cut, visions never are. They just give you information and leave it up to you to decipher the meaning. Sometimes that’s easy, other times not so much.”

“Can you describe your vision?”

“The vision came in two parts. The first part featured a man surrounded by the sea. He had accomplished many things in his life, but one goal stood out. He made the world a better place, one in which the ocean land lived in complete harmony. Behind the man stood an exquisite underwater kingdom.  The kingdom’s sophisticated, decked out with advanced technology while keeping its ancient roots. In the kingdom, merfolk and humans lived together in peace.”

“Sounds magnificent.”

“Yes, it does. Until the vision delved into a nightmare.”  The smile on Mami’s face vanished, and she became serious and intense. Her body went rigid and her eyes turned red. Ejo hissed in anger as he tightens himself around her.  The room shook for a moment. The lights shattered.

In the darkness the goddess’ eyes stayed aflame. The temperature dropped and though I wasn’t affected, I noticed the vapors of my breath.  In a stern and intense tone, Mami continued her tale.

“A red-purplish liquid washed over the man and transformed him into a shark-like humanoid creature, a monstrosity.  He disrupted the harmony between the land and the sea, and the earth fell into the ocean. The monster conquered the earth kingdoms using the various weapons at his disposal.  With his backing, merfolk took dominion over the humans. They forced them to transform into an array of merfolk. From the refined to the grotesque. If they resisted, they died.  The ocean turned red soaked with the blood of millions, both from the land and sea.”

As the vision dissipated, the room returned to normal. We sat in silence for a moment and then I spoke. “The man’s Galloway.”

“Correct.”

“The weapons, did you identity any of them?”

“The dark water yes. The other weapons no. There was one exception and I shudder to think of it.”

“What was it?”

“In the vision the specific weapon’s vague in its form. I remember seeing tentacles and the enormous feeling of dread and death that hanged overhead.”

“So this weapon could be an animal.”

“And ancient animal of the ocean.”

“I’ve read up on prehistoric marine life. They’re bigger and deadlier than their descendants.”

“That’s true.”

“Do these creatures exist today? Or must he use the blue holes to resurrect them?”

“It’s said the deeper you go in the ocean, the bigger and stranger the animals are. That is true. Not all the ancient ones are alive. But this one is. He’ll have to use magic to make it obey his will.”

“Galloway spoke of the Lukku-Cairi.”

Still red, Mami’s eyes lit up. “Ah yes, they worshiped the ocean. The Lukku-Cairi were one of the many children I have. They died while others got enslaved. They are no more.”  Tears dripped down her cheeks, and a sorrowful moan escaped her lips.

“My poor children, scattered around the globe. To this day they’re hated and feared. Slaughtered and demeaned. Their creations stolen and copied by the ones who hold power, and advance with mediocre efforts. In spite of this, my children endure and persevere… I long for the day when they can be free.”

“I’m sorry Mami. The world is a cruel place.”

“Not the world, it’s the people in it who have made it so.”

“But there’s still hope.”

“Yes, it’s small but it exists. You are part of it.” I give a brief smile before I returned to the business at hand. “How did you come to meet Galloway?”

“After having this vision, I set out to find the man in it. His face was prominent, and when I discerned who he was, I implemented a plan.”

“You became Ms. Kellie Wade.”

“Yes. I can manifest in many forms. I decided it would be best to appear human and learn more about Galloway and his passion for the ocean. I first met him at a conference where he gave a speech. It was easy to catch his eye and from that day on I never left his side. Like all men who encounter me, Galloway became wealthier. But I couldn’t heal his disease without revealing my true identity.  He didn’t suffer though. I was able to help him and his obsession with the ocean began to disappear… He spent time with his family and friends. We were going to get married.”

I gasped. “Did you love him?”

“At first no. I had a mission to focus on. But over time, I came to love him.”

“But what changed?”

Anger reappeared on Mami’s face. “Dr. Strucker.”

 

35

 

I’m flabbergasted. Devin’s the cause of this mayhem? Impossible.  “Are you sure?”

The goddess nodded.  “They’re the catalyst for these recent events.”

“I don’t understand. How could Devin be the reason for Galloway turning into the monster he is now?”

 “Once Dr. Strucker learned Galloway was their father, they came to work at FUCA.  He took an immediate liking to the doctor. He loved their ideas-they had great ones- and the doctor got promoted fast.  Though we had different roles at the company, the doctor and I had the same level of power. This often led us to butt heads.”

“Devin clarified that there’s no love loss between the two of you.”

“I don’t hate Galloway’s child.”

“But you blame them for Galloway’s actions.”  

 “They revived Galloway’s obsession with the ocean. After his sister’s death, Galloway became depressed. I tried but to no avail. He became distant towards me and everyone else.

Dr. Strucker wanted to help their father.  They dedicated themselves to researching the secrets of the black and blue holes. Dr. Strucker believed using the holes might derive a cure. And help FUCA achieve Galloway’s goal of creating a better world.”

“I’m confused. Devin laid the blame for Galloway’s obsession at your feet.”

Surprised by my words, Mami became unsettled in her seat. “I wanted him to use his talents and access for good. I pushed too hard, and he pushed me away.”

“And Devin pushed him to study the holes.”

“Yes. They wanted to please their father. In our fight to sway him to our causes, the doctor and I must have pushed Galloway towards the point of no return.”

“And his obsession got the best of him.”

“It’s what led him to the black hole, he wanted to be the first to experience it. He’s an explorer at heart.”

“It was his transformation that led him to retreat from public life. And you became his spokesperson, the voice of FUCA.”

Gods always meddle with humans, and their intentions are not always plain. Devin told me Galloway heard a voice in the black hole. When I questioned him he appeared startled but denied that a voice spoke to him. Something was amiss, and it stemmed from the water goddess Mami Wata herself.

“You decided to go undercover to be near Galloway, to prevent the apocalyptic future from your vision.”

“That’s correct.”

“Isn’t that what you wanted? When you spoke of the horrific things done to your children, you’re angry. You have every right to be. My people-your children-endured oppression, we’re still dealing with it.  So I can imagine you wanted revenge on those who’ve caused you and what remains of your offspring pain.  Maybe the vision and Galloway himself was a means to an end for you. But things went awry.”

The goddess’ sly smile returned to her mouth as her still red eyes glared at me. “You are correct in your assessment. I wanted revenge, and the vision showed me a solution. As I’ve said before, visions aren’t clear-cut about everything. I took a huge gamble.”

“If Devin’s meddling and Galloway’s obsession didn’t get in the way, your plan would have succeeded.”

“It was a huge risk, but I needed to take it.”

“Did you? Why do the gods need to interfere with mankind?”

Mami slammed her fists as the room shook and went dark. “You don’t understand! We gods, we have power, awesome power that we wield over the masses. There’s no responsibility, so we do with it as we please.”

“But there is responsibility! You may be a god but you have emotions like us puny humans.  You fell in love with one! Because of your love for your children, you put into motion an act of revenge that based on vision. There are consequences for your actions! You aren’t absolved from them because you’re a bloody god!”

Mami stood and approached me. For a few moments I’m engrossed in her rising anger. The room shook and then everything went silent. Light replaced the darkness and the goddess’ eyes reverted back to their normal color. The goddess hovered in the air as Ejo returned around her breasts.

“You’re right… you’re right.”

“Will you help me fix things?”

“I can only help soften the blow. Things will never return to the way they once were. What’s done can’t be undone. We can try to prevent the apocalyptic outcome from my vision.”

“Thank you, goddess.”

“It’s I who should thank you Viola. Forgive me.”

“It’s okay. Remember to err is human, to forgive divine.”

The goddess smiled as she faded away.

 

 

I left Dr. Ferguson’s office and found my crewmates waiting. Now awake and well-rested, Max greeted me first.  “Is everything okay V?”

I nodded. “Mami’s going to help us stop Galloway. He’s going to raise not only his sister but also an ancient creature out of the blue holes.”

Captain Ryan nodded in agreement. “Then we better get going.”

WOOP! WOOP! WOOP!

The Graymalkin’s alarms sounded. “What the hell’s going on?” The captain and Jesse rushed back to the bridge.  As the ship’s hull rocked, it sent everyone tumbling to the floor.  “Looks like we’ve got company.”  

36

 

I rose from the floor and scanned the surrounding waters. “It’s the navy and FUCA. We’ve got two subs heading our way, the FN1 Darkhölme, the FN3 Rasputin. On the surface’s there’s six navy ships taking up the rear.”

Dr. Ferguson pressed the intercom button. “Bridge here.” Captain Ryan’s voice greeted her on the other end. “Captain, Dr. Foy states there’s two subs coming towards us and there’s six navy ships on the surface.” 

“Copy that.”

“I’m headed to the bridge.”  The doctor nodded as I exited the medical bay.

Max was right behind me. “Where’s the goddess?”

“No idea where she’s gone to. You okay?”

I gave him a glance over and noticed his muscular arms and chest. I must have stared too long because Max blushed. “Yeah, you?”

“Me? Never better.  What’s your favorite food?” I tried to change the topic as we headed to the bridge. 

“Any kind will do. If it’s good food, I’ll eat it.”

I gave a quick smirk. “Same here.”

“We’ll figure something out. Right now our focus needs to be on Galloway and his plans.”

Nodding in agreement, I opened the bridge door. “Permission to come on the bridge?” Captain Ryan swiveled in the captain’s chair. “Permission granted.”

I stepped onto the bridge and gazed around the room. Decker, Morales, and Jesse were at their stations, accessing the oncoming threat. Max returned to his station, his focus renewed.  Upon watching Max, the captain smiled in approval. “I see you’re both feeling better.”

“Yes captain.”

“Good we need your expertise.”

The captain beckoned me towards the ship’s viewing screen. “Two FUCA subs are blocking our path while their navy counterparts block us topside. Decker on screen please.”

“Aye captain.”  

The subs appeared on screen. “Magnify.”

Max looked up from his work. “That’s them alright.”

“Specs on both subs Mr. Conrad.”

“Aye captain. They’ll appear on the screen in a minute.” With the specs on screen, Max headed to the front of the bridge and began his presentation.

 

 

“As I’ve stated before, out of the three FUCA subs, the [_FN2 Graymalkin’s _]the smallest and the fastest. It’s got firepower and FUCA upgrades. We’ve got a great sub. Now let’s meet the competition: first up, the [_FN3 Rasputin. _] It’s a guided missile submarine made from the different parts of a variant of the US Ohio class. Rasputin’s retrofitted and updated with FUCA tech. It’s the second largest ship in the FUCA fleet.  The Rasputin’s 450 feet from bow to stern, with a beam measuring 35 feet. Displacement is 15,764 tons submerged, speed’s 20+ knots.”  

Captain Ryan approached the viewing screen and studied the Rasputin’s specs. “Weapons?”

Max used the clicker to move to the next page of his presentation. “Rasputin’s a guided missile sub, capable of carrying 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles. The sub can fire harpoon missiles through the torpedo tubes.”

“Vantages and drawbacks?”

“Food supplies only restrict Rasputin’s range. Graymalkin’s _] required to refuel every 30 years. Our ship’s endurance last 90 days, the Rasputin’s unknown.  While we’re faster than the Rasputin, we can also go dive deeper. Rasputin’s test depth’s +800 ft, while  [_Graymalkin’s test depth’s 950 ft.”

The captain thought for a moment and then motioned for Max to continue with his presentation. As Max clicked, the screen brought up the next slide.

“Last but not least, the FN1 Darkhölme. _]Built from and [_Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine largest sub in the fleet. Like its counterparts, the sub’s retrofitted and upgraded with FUCA tech. [Darkhölme _]measures 560 ft from bow to stern. It’s beam measures 42 ft.[  _]Sub’s displacement is 18,750 tons. Its speed’s greater than 25 knots. Test depth’s greater than 800 feet. And just like the Rasputin the ship’s range’s limited only by food supplies. Endurance is unknown. [_Darkhölme’s _]armed with MK-48 torpedoes and 24 × Trident II D-5 ballistic missiles.”

“What do the Rasputin and the [_Darkhölme _]run on?”

“Both subs run on the same type of renewable energy that our ship runs on. Both subs were modified for a minimal crew.”

“Good to know. Thanks for the briefing Mr. Conrad.”

“My pleasure.”

Max returned to his station and the captain returned to her chair. She sat there thinking for a moment before turning to me. “Now that we know what we’re up against, do you have any ideas for getting through the blockade?”

“Well, we-”

WOOP! WOOP! WOOP!

Jesse stood up from her station. “Incoming torpedoes, captain.”

37

 

WOOP! WOOP! WOOP!

The alarms continue to ring as the crew scattered to and fro on the bridge. Captain Ryan stood and stared at the screen. “How many?”

“Sensors show six torpedoes headed this way.”

“How much time do we have?”

“Twenty seconds before impact.”

“Well shit. Any suggestions, doc?”

I moved in front of the viewing screen. “I think I can deflect and destroy them.”

Nodding in approval, the captain addressed the crew. “Shields up!”

Standing in front of the viewing screen, I reached out and followed the torpedoes with my mind. The weapons were heading towards us in pairs and at great speed.  I focused on the first pair and with my outstretched hand, I balled it into a fist.

BOOSH!

“You’ve got four more to go.”

“I have them Jesse.”

I caught sight of the next pair they weren’t that far in front of the last set.  Reaching out again, I balled my hand into a fist.

BOOSH! BOOSH! BOOM!

The exploding second pair set off a chain reaction that exploded the last set of torpedoes.  Everyone cheered and Jesse patted me on the back as I passed her station.

“Great job doc.”

“Thanks.”

Across from us sat Dwayne Parrish. On the Graymalkin, he resumed his communications role he had on the Calypso Blue. Something caught his attention and he leapt from his chair.

“Captain! They’re hailing us.”

“Put it on screen.”

The screen transition from the view of the two submarines blocking our path to a familiar face.

“Captain Ryan. This is Captain Greene of the United States Navy. I’m ordering you to surrender.”

“With all due respect, I cannot.”

“Captain, you’re harboring a fugitive and are at risk of making you and your crew fugitives as well. If you turn over Dr. Foy, I can assure you that you receive a fair trial. If not, both you and your crew become enemies of the state. No help will be available to you.”

“I-”

Wait captain! I can’t let you do this.

She motioned for Parrish to cut off communication.

What the hell are you saying? They’ve taken my ship. They’re not taking this one.

Are you sure?

Dr. Foy, I’m descended from pirates. Just as they rebelled against the law during their lifetimes, I too rebel against them now.

What do the rest of you say?

With resolve, the crew looked at me. Their support continued to stun me.  I could not disappoint them. “Right.” The captain grinned and nodded at Parrish who unmuted the communication. Captain Greene’s impatient face reappeared on the viewing screen. “Well captain?”

Captain Ryan stood up and stared at her counterpart. “I’ll only say this: [_Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.” _]

Although angered by the captain’s response, Captain Greene replied in a calm manner. “So be it. Order our ships to prepare to fire on enemy target. Good bye captain. May god have mercy on your soul.”

Captain Greene ceased communication and the screen returned normal. My crewmates turned to look at Captain Ryan awaiting her next orders.  They came quick. “Shields up, red alert.”

 

38

Sixty seconds. 

In that time Captain Ryan and her crew saluted each other. Max and I acknowledged our feelings and share one passionate kiss. A few closed their eyes and prepared for the afterlife. Sixty seconds before the [_Graymalkin _]went dark and sank to the bottom of the deep blue sea…

Except that didn’t happen.

Cheers and sighs of relief resounded in the bridge. But they turned to confusion when navigator Roz Callie Cole mentioned the sub was now in a new location.

“Are you sure?”

“One hundred percent, cap. The navigation readings are off the charts.”

The Graymalkin’s helmsman Ishmael Lupe Montgomery who sat across from Roz, confirmed it.

“We’re definitely not where we’re supposed to be.”

“Then where are we?” Demanded our submarine armament man, Ahmed Jamal Harris.

“You’re in my realm.” 

A familiar voice answered. It belonged to the water goddess Mami Wata who reappeared in front of the captain and I. 

 

 

Happy to see our ally, I gave the goddess an awkward hug. Though bemused, she appeared to appreciate the gesture and Ejo hissed as if he was a cat purring.

While she didn’t give Mami a hug, the captain appreciated the goddess’ actions. “Thank you.”

“Indeed.” Jesse echoed.

“We might have been goners without you. But next time can you not cut it so close?” Perplexed at the crew’s gratitude, Mami didn’t know what to say.

Outside the sub, the water was dark blue and pure. Spirits of marine life past and present swam among their lively counterparts. It was a magnificent thing to behold. Ishmael rose from his seat and moved closer to the viewing screen. “Wow.” Roz followed him. “Right? We’re in an undersea paradise, amazing.” While the rest of the crew enjoyed the sights that darted across the screen, I turned to Mami.

I glanced at the goddess as she floated in mid-air. Ejo flexed around her breasts. She appeared comfortable and at home in her paradisiacal realm. 

“Goddess, specifically where is your realm?” 

“Many say it’s underwater, others say it’s in the spirit world.”

“What do you say?”

“I say it’s a mixture of both worlds. It can be easy to lose yourself in it. Come, let me show you my world.”

After notifying the captain, I took Mami’s hand. We disappeared from the Graymalkin and reappeared right outside it. I waved to my crewmates and then set out with the goddess to tour her realm.

“Your realm is majestic goddess.”

“Thank you.”

“It’s so peaceful here.”

“I didn’t just bring you here for peace.”

“For what other reason did you bring us here?”

“I brought you here not only to have peace but to grasp a new spiritual understanding. You’ll need to be ready to face what’s ahead.” 

“I’m not sure I’m ready.”

“Trust yourself. Trust in your abilities and skills, both old and new. Finally, trust your friends. Close your eyes and meditate. Concentrate… breathe in and out… that’s it. Let the currents guide your heart.”

I obeyed the goddess’ instructions, took a deep breath and closed my eyes. And my out-of-body experience began. My consciousness separated from my physical body. I drifted away from my motionless body flowing in the ocean currents. My astral body entered a sea. Instead of water, it ebbed and flowed with something…

 

What is this?  

[_You’ve entered the ethereal plane. _]

The ethereal plane?

The sea of boundless possibility. It’s the source of your powers.  Time flows differently here. Learn as much as you can.

And that’s what I did. Time ebbed and flowed as I studied and trained. How long I trained was unknown. Days, weeks, months, and years most likely passed. My body didn’t age. It’s difficult to understand how time moved in this place. What I did know was that I gained a new spiritual understanding. And I was ready to face whatever Galloway tossed my way.

I left the ethereal plane and my astral body returned to its physical form. My eyes opened and the spiritual understanding I gained flowed through me. It renewed my mind, body, and soul.

Mami Wata greeted me. “Are you ready?”

“Yes.”

“Good.” 

“I appreciate your help.”

“I’m helping you as much as I’m helping myself.”

I stared at the goddess in suspicion and dwelled on her comment for a moment. Choosing not to ask her what she meant, I instead inquired other things. 

“Earlier you called me an Orniainthi. What does that mean?”

“It is your true name. You’ve returned to your true self, a demi-goddess of the sea.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You’re the reincarnation of Orniainthi. From the time you were small, the ocean has called to you. You grew up not belonging, feeling out of place in the world. Step by step you returned to your roots, the sea. Orniainthi is your true self.”

“What is Galloway?”

The goddess frowned as sorrow came upon her.

“He’s something else.”

“What do you mean?”

“He’s lost. All gods have a dual nature. Galloway’s lost in his, he needs to find his way back to balance or it will destroy him.”

“Do you still love him?”

Mami paused for a moment. “Yes.”

“Is he savable?”

“Maybe, but it’s up to him to make the choice. We can only show him the way.”

“Then we’ll help you.”

The goddess smiled. “Thank you Orniainthi.”

I smiled in return but our smiles turned to concern when the realm began to shake.  Mami grew troubled.

“What is it? Mami?”

“We’re too late.”

“What’s happening?”

“The Lusca’s awakened.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I go to the ocean to calm down, to reconnect with the creator, to just be happy.”

 

― Nnedi Okorafor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

V

 

RESTORATION

 

39

 

Mami Wata and I swam back to the Graymalkin. As we made our way back, the goddess’ realm continued to shake. This troubled her.

“My realm… he’s become more powerful than I perceived him to be.”

“Galloway? Is that how he was able to kill you in your human disguise?”

 “Yes. I didn’t expect him to do that. I underestimated how lost he is. We may not be able to reach him.”

“What of Devin? Maybe we could reason with them. They’ve always responded to logic and reason.”

“Yes… that may prove useful, only if they haven’t succumbed to the madness of their family line.”

“And with Galloway the way he is we may lose Devin as well.”

“Don’t give up yet. We first must dispense with this sea monster.”

“Right, the Lusca.”

“Legend states the creature resides in the blue holes off the coast of Andros. It comes out of its dark liar in the evening to hunt. Throughout the centuries, many people reported sightings of the monster.  Descriptions range from a multi-headed monster, a dragon-like creature, or an evil spirit.”

“What’s the creature’s true form?”

“The Lusca has the body of an octopus and shark for its head. The monster has plenty of tentacles and a wide mouth full of serrated teeth. The Lusca hunts by rising up under its unsuspecting prey and sucks them beneath the waves at a shocking speed. I’ve heard many tales of the creature snatching people of the decks of boats or pulling an entire boat underwater. The creature has been known to grab its prey right off the beach.  Lusca leaves no traces of its hunt behind, only bubbling water or swirling debris on the surface.”

“Christ! So this creature’s not a figment of anyone’s imagination or conjured up through magic?”

“Lusca is an ancient sea creature. One that even the [_Lukku-Cairi _]feared and revered.”

“Has anyone ever fought the creature?”

“Back in ancient times. Many courageous merfolk and humans fought the monster, but none survived. The creature stays to itself, but has haunted the kingdoms of the land and sea. This was often the cause of someone manipulating the creature from behind the scenes.”

“Galloway’s manipulating the Lusca.”

“Correct.”

 “How does one defeat the monster?”

“That’s for you to figure out.”

“You mean you’re not going to tell me?”

“I can’t tell you because I don’t know. While we know many things, the gods aren’t omniscience. That’s just something we project.”

“I’m beginning to understand that now.”

“Use the knowledge you’ve gained from the ethereal plane to defeat the Lusca and its master. There’s one more thing I can give you but only if everything else fails… I hope things won’t go that way though.”

Mami frowned as she thought upon her last words. I reached out to console her, but she held up one hand and a smile returned to her face. 

“Do not worry, I’m fine. Look your friends await your return.”

I turned to see the Graymalkin and Mami fazed us back onto the bridge. Captain Ryan gleamed as she gazed upon our return. “Welcome back.”

“Thanks Cap.”

“Looks like you’re ready for battle.”

“Yes. I see you and the crew are also ready.”

I looked around and saw my crewmates determined faces. Max gave me a thumbs up. “We’re right behind you V.”

“Alright then, let’s go.”

With a wave of the goddess’ hand, she returned us from her realm and back in the Tongue of the ocean. We were near the blue holes found ourselves in the midst of a heavy and bloody battle between the navy and the Lusca. 

40

 

Chaos erupted around us as Roz steered the sub away from the many tentacles and explosions. The Lusca was doing a number on the navy and FUCA ships. Out of the seven, only four remained. Two ships on the surface and the two FUCA subs below.  Blood and guts muddled the ocean and turned the surrounding water a deep red. Many body parts and dead crewmen floated by, and Dr. Ferguson attended to Max and Decker. Both had vomited at the sight of the chop suey of death.

“What the hell’s happening?” the captain demanded.

“It’s the Lusca.”

“The what?”

The Lusca. It’s an ancient sea monster that Galloway controls.”

“I thought the Navy and Galloway were buddies.”

“I remember in his grotto he mentioned how he’s using the navy to complete his goals. Maybe they’ve outlived their usefulness.”

“We’ve got to help them.”

Before the crew could utter any protest, the captain held up her hand. “The doc’s right. Despite the fact they tried to blow us to smithereens, we’ve got a bigger problem on our hands than the navy.”

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  Roz quoted.

“Right you are Ms. Callie. Mr. Parrish, hail the Darkhölme.”

“Aye captain.”

“Put it onscreen.”

“Onscreen now.”

The Darkhölme’s bridge appeared onscreen, bearing major damage. Instead of Captain Greene, Lt. Wellington sat in the captain’s chair. Her forehead bore a nasty cut on the right side. As she graced our screen, she gave us a glare though I detected a sense of relief from her. “You sure picked a hell of a time to surrender.”

“And you picked a hell of a time to get into trouble!” the captain shot back. “Where’s Captain Greene?” 

“He’s amongst those who are severely injured. We’ve lost half of our troops.”

“I’m sorry for your loss lieutenant.”

 “I don’t have time for this captain.”

“You’re right, you don’t. Let’s call a truce.”

“Not happening. Why don’t I give you the terms of surrender?”

“You can’t be serious right now! An ancient sea monster destroyed most of your fleet and you want us to surrender? Come on, lieutenant!”

Lt. Wellington sighed as she rubbed her wound. “Nothing can stop that thing.”

I stepped up to the screen. “I can.”

“How?”

“I’ll figure it out. You got to trust me.”

Lt. Wellington remained skeptical and Captain Ryan’s patience “Time’s running out, lieutenant.”

“Okay, we have a truce for now. But if we survive when this, I’m coming for you.”

“We will see lieutenant. Right now I’m going to need you and your remaining ships to fall back and let me handle the creature. Attend to your wounded, assess your damage and fix what you can.”

“Alright. What will your crew do?”

I turned to Captain Ryan who nodded. “We’ve got your back.”

“Then that settles it. Captain fall back to a safe distance with the other ships. I’m going fishing.”

Captain Ryan smirked. “You heard her ladies and gentlemen! To your stations.”

The crew got to work and as Roz and Ishmael moved us away from the Lusca’s grip, I approached Max. Everything had been so hectic and I wanted to talk to him one last time before I headed into battle, my fate unknown.

Max’s back faced me as I approached his station. He appeared worried but focused on his assigned duties. “Max.” Not startled by my interruption he stood expecting my arrival.

“Hey.” There was a somberness in his gorgeous green eyes. I didn’t have to say anything he knew the odds weren’t in my favor. Despite the odds, I felt inclined to say something encouraging. “I want you to know-”

Before I could get the word out of my mouth, Max wrapped his arms around me and engulfed my lips in a deep kiss. In that moment, we experienced a mergence that we never had experience before. Our emotions exploded giving way to a wave of inexplicable euphoria that lasted for at least a minute.

“Wow.”  Max beamed as we parted from our embrace.

“Yeah, wow.”

“That was-”

“I know.”

“Have you ever?”

“No, never.”

We gazed at each other until the sub’s alarms sounded, notifying us of our present state. Max and I both frowned. I turned away as our hands released and headed towards the subs viewing screen.  The Lusca coming for us and I was the only thing that could stop its destruction.

I gave one long glance around the bridge, my eyes settling on Max. Focused on his work, he didn’t look back, but his thoughts were with me.

Don’t go.

I have to or we’ll die.

You’ll die.

Better me than everyone else.

Give that thing a big punch for me will ya?

I will. We’ll see each other again, in this world or the next. I promise.

“Godspeed doctor.”

“Thanks cap. Get as far away as you can.”

The cap nodded and as the crew saluted me, I entered the bloody battlefield. The question was who would be buried here, my friends and I or the monster?

 

 

41

 

Before I entered the black hole, I could never smell underwater. I entered the vast ocean from the Graymalkin and wished for my nose to become clogged. I didn’t want to inhale the horrid stench germinating from the many corpses that littered my path.

The visuals were worse than the aroma of death.  I came upon a literal bloodbath. My eyes cringed every time they came upon a piece of human flesh.  I found the dead bodies of the fallen crews of the FUCA and navy vessels. The terrified faces immortalized on their lifeless bodies… I can’t get the images out of my head. Things got worse when their spirits leapt at me as they begged me not to continue.  There are no words to contemplate how the Lusca slaughtered in such a chaotic fashion.

This wasn’t natural, the creature isn’t hunting. The Lusca’s killing for the sake of killing. Under Galloway’s control the Lusca’s become a mindless killing machine. If I didn’t stop the creature, death awaited everyone in its path.

As I continued on the path of destruction left by the monster, an eerie quiet surrounded me. The place was devoid of marine life, and I didn’t sense any within ten miles. It dawned on me that I’m alone in an ocean of death, nearing my executioner.  No backup’s coming to my aid, I didn’t want to put my friends lives in any more danger.  They needed any support to escape death.

I hoped I can too.

Moments later, the monster’s enormous and long tentacles appeared. They welcomed me long before I discovered the creature’s face. Ten minutes passed before the Lusca reared its ugly head.  The sight of it was horrifying, menacing and magnificent. The creature’s head resembled a great white shark. But not entirely. The head’s larger. No, this head belonged to the ancient C. megalodon.

Shit, what am I going to do?

The Lusca attacked before I could answer. Its finer serrated teeth nearly got my foot as I ducked.  Dodging both the creature’s mouth and tentacles became increasingly hard.  The Lusca lashed out with swift and aggressive attacks. The creature’s movements caused the bloody subjects to mixed creating a chum.

 And I’m in the thick of the mixture.

It stung and blinded me. And that’s when the sense of impending doom grew larger. My chest hurt and my heart began pounding at a rapid rate.  At first my body trembled but soon shook.  Dizziness came over me and I felt faint.  I had had these signs before. They first came to me eight years ago on a dive expedition to Iceland’s Westfjords.

It’s the most isolated and less populated part of the ‘land of fire and ice’. Westfjords’ known for its extraordinary fjords and soaring boney cliffs that rise from the sea. And it’s the place of my panic attack which took me away from the ocean and stationed me at a desk for eight years. 

 

 

[_I had gone on a seven-day tour with ten other divers and the expedition started well with no incidents.  Though my social phobia limited the time I spent with them on land, I got along well with my fellow divers. _]

[_We saw many distinctive places of interest that included the endless mountains and fjords.  Our group visited the Latrabjarg Birdcliff, Europe’s westernmost part.  The location’s a nesting ground for millions of seabirds. _]

We toured Westfjords’ attractive waterfalls, charming villages, abandoned farms, and whaling stations.  But we also visited the Hornstrandir nature reserve.  Those who visit seek solitude, wildlife, breathtaking scenery and great hiking trails. And that’s what they’ll find at the reserve. While these sights piqued my interests, I yearned to explore the treasures of the deep.

We only had four days to explore and each dive we venture didn’t disappoint.  Our dives were remarkable. We explored astounding walls, a whale graveyard and a large ancient wreck of which are there many. We also had the opportunity to dive with the Harbor and Grey seals.

Our tour guide took us to one of the best spots to view the animals, the Skötufjörður fjord. Our van passed by a parking space that had a sign indicating that were 200 meters away from the seals.  And sure enough, when we arrived, the sears were on the beach sunbathing!

Everything was going well. I enjoyed my time with my more outgoing and talkative divers.  But that all changed on our last dive.

At first there weren’t any problems, we all dived into the cold salt water like we had done before. None of us were amateurs, we each had at least ten logged dry suit dives under our belts. In our short time together, the team became a unified group and trusted each other with our lives.

But something happened as I swam in the deep blue sea. I couldn’t explain it then nor can I now. I just know that I experienced the same signs that I’m experiencing in my current predicament. Having a panic attack underwater is one of the worse things to endure. But my fellow divers were up to the challenge and helped me return to the surface.

 I was so embarrassed and ashamed of the entire episode, that I left the trip ahead of my colleagues. Upon my return to the states, I didn’t keep in contact with them in spite of everyone pledging to do so.

 

 

One of the worse things of experiencing a panic attack is the intense fear that accompanies it.  You’re scared you’ll have another one so much that you avoid situations where they may occur.

For me that meant avoiding diving at all costs. The only thing that got me to return to the sea was the sense of adventure and curiosity that I got from Devin’s pitch to me.

And now here I was in the middle of an enormous bloody cesspool regretting that I had left my desk.  And that’s when the Lusca grabbed me.

 

 

42

 

This is unbelievable. Here I was having a panic attack, and in the midst of it an ancient sea monster can devour me.  What a way to go. 

“Ugh!”

The massive tentacles wrapped around me and moved towards the monster’s mouth. Galloway had won, and I had failed my friends and the world.  It can’t end this way. I won’t let that happen.

Maybe, I could reach out. Granted Galloway controlled the monster. I wasn’t sure due to being ancient how developed its mind was. Even so, it’s a creature of the sea. If Galloway did it, I can too. I had to try. Either way, my death’s ensured so there was nothing to lose.

Except the fate of the world, my friends, and my life. But who cares right? The tentacles tightened around me as we finally reached our destination, the creature’s mouth.

The stench was enormous, far worse than Galloway’s. And I had thought there was not one breath was worse than my own Moriarty’s but the Lusca proved me wrong.

Its lifeless eyes starred at me as if it was thinking what it should do next. That was my cue to plead my case.  Still reeling from the panic attack, I struggled to focus. But then I remembered the deep breathing exercises my therapist had recommended. I reminded myself my body now had a set of two breathing apparatuses. I used my abilities to relax as much as I can in my current position.

I stared back at the lifeless eyes and attempted to connect to the Lusca. I can communicate with marine life I don’t want to use my powers to force them to do my bidding. Instead, I ask. Freedom belongs to every living being, and I try to use my mental powers in a way that follows this statement. I kept this in mind as I connected to the Lusca.

Please do not do this.

No response.

Please do not eat me.

The creature’s eyes stirred.

Do you understand? Can you understand?

I understand…

Someone evil controls you.

Controls? Evil?

Yes. They’re making you kill indiscriminately. That’s not your way.

I only kill when I’m hungry or in danger. Not for any other reason.

Are you hungry?

No.

Are you in danger?

No.

Then why are you killing now?

The pain makes me… I do not…

I understand.

You know?

Yes.

Tell me so I can understand.

He’s controlling you.

Controlled?

Yes, he’s forcing you to kill without reason. Do you understand?

Yes. I understand.

Will you kill me?

No.

Why?

Because I’m not hungry. Because you’re not hurting me.

But he is.

Who is he?

Galloway.

I showed the Lusca an image of our enemy. The creature bellowed in agony.  It loosened its grasp of my waist. I moved in slow and measured movements to escape the tentacles. I continued the deep breathing and concentrated even more on my connection to the Lusca.

Do you remember now?

Yes… the pain. It hurts!

I understand your pain. He hurt me too. He’s hurting my friends, the ocean and the world. Can you help me stop him? Will you help me?

Yes… but the pain.

I can help you take it away. Will you allow me to take the pain away?

Yes… please… it hurts! It-

In a fury the Lusca bellowed again. Its eyes returned to their lifeless form and then it glared at me.

SMACK!

THUD!

As one of the creature’s tentacles struck me. And as I hit a nearby boulder that preceded to fall on top of me, I sensed Galloway’s presence upon the Lusca.

“Are you still alive child?”

Pushing my hand up through the rubble, I gave the merged creature the middle finger.  I heard Galloway chuckle and as I blasted the rocks away, the monster’s face greeted my own as I looked up.

“As you can see, I’m still kicking.”

“Not for long.”

Galloway had merged with the Lusca, and his voice projected from the monster’s mouth. The foul stench from the gaping hole, knocked me a few feet away.  After gathering my bearings, I stood up.

 The panic attack had run its course and the overwhelming sense of dread departed. Anger had replaced it.  Pointing at the merged Galloway/Lusca, I shouted.

“You’re wrong. It’s you who hasn’t got long. As for me, I’m going to be kicking for quite a while.”

Having a Lusca grin at you is one of the weirdest and uneasy feelings you’ll ever have. I stood ready to fight the monster who grinned at me. The time of fear and complacency was over.

It was time to kick some ass.

43

 

As the wide-mouthed sea monster charged at me, I stood at the ready. With the Lusca’s gapping mouth, Galloway plowed into me. The creature’s teeth gnashed as it missed, spraying bits of sand and chum.

Galloway soon realized he had only chewed upon a hologram. It satisfied me to watch the big grinned dissipate from the monster’s face. “Yo-hoo.” Now that I had his attention, I summoned two big bolts of powerful energy. I hurled them at the ancient sea monster. Too late in his response, the bolts hit the Lusca as it turned to confront the enemy.

I swung around and hit them again with another dose of energy bolts. I kept up my attacks and battered Galloway’s controlled monster. Its attempts to fight back with its tentacles proved futile, and I moved in for the kill.

Do I want to kill the animal?

The Lusca wasn’t at fault for its deadly actions. The deaths lied at Galloway’s feet. I couldn’t kill this ancient sea monster, instead I’ll free it from Galloway’s control.

As I hovered pondering on my thoughts, the creature seized me once more with its appendages. The humongous head hovered over me and the stench of death descended upon me.

It was hard to stay conscious. What made it harder was Galloway’s speech. “Orniainthi, I commend you for your actions. You’ve put up a brave fight, but this ends now.”

But then again that made it easier to stall.

“So you’re familiar with Orniainthi. But did you know Ms. Wade’s Mami Wata?”

“Yes.”

“Are you aware she loves you?”

The Lusca’s eyes blinked.

“I did not… this changes nothing.”

“But it can. The goddess told me you’re lost. There’s still time to stop this madness and find your true self.”

“What do you think I’m doing Dr. Foy?”

“If not stopped, you’ll unleash the floodgates and usher in the apocalypse.”

“No, you misunderstand. For my entire life, I’ve been searching for something that’ll make me whole. And I’ve found it.”

Galloway’s hold became tighter, and I’m worried I’ll go the same way Ms. Wade had. In spite of death’s approach, I close my eyes and focus.

“But Mami Wata and Devin love you. Why isn’t that enough?”

Hear me creatures of the deep, lend me your strength.

“I’m trying to make a better world!”

“By this destruction and chaos?”

“They’re agents of change. History proves it so.”

“But change can come through love and peace. There’s always another way. Mami Wata saw this vision of chaos and he saw a peaceful way. As Ms. Wade, she attempted to prevent the chaos. And along the way she fell in love with you. She still loves you.”

For an instant, a light appeared in the creature’s eyes. But it was not to be. Galloway snuffed out the light and fully embraced the darkness.

“The needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many doctor.” No glimpses of hope appeared in his voice, and I knew what I intended to do was the right choice. My body began to glow.

“I agree Galloway.”

“You do? You finally see the light child?”

“Yes. I understand that if you’re not stopped, the world’s doomed.”

With an angry howl Galloway descended upon me as I released the energy I had gathered.

44

 

[All my life
Is changing every day
In every possible way]

[In all my dreams
It’s never quite as it seems
Never quite as it seems]

“Ugh.” Caught in a dream, I struggle to wake up. Vivid memories of the past, present and future swirl together, forming a tapestry of my life.

 

I’m a quantum leaper as I jump through poignant moments in my life. There’s my childhood, where my love of the sea begins. My body moves to the wishing well and then soars to the shark attack on my 30th birthday.

The next leap brings me to my schooling. I move from elementary to each of my college graduations. From the first time I earn a B.A. in Liberal Studies, my Masters in Marine Biology then my Ph.D. in Oceanography.

Each leap becomes more intense and I find myself back in the Westfjords experiencing my first panic attack again. I don’t have time to catch my breath as I’m thrusted forward first to sit at my desk and then into the Black Hole where I undergo my transformation. Then I’m spirited through my escapes, visiting Mami Wata’s realm, and the ethereal plane.

And for a moment, I remain there glistening more knowledge and then I’m off again, only this time I’ve leapt into the future…and then it hits me. I’m no longer in a dream, I’ve entered a vision.

 

 

A variety of scenarios appear and then dissipate, their meanings unknown. Creatures and humanoid beings make their appearances. Some stay hidden in the shadows while others are briefly seen.

There’s so much to take in and break apart. Each apparition tugs at me, pleading for my attention. And though I want to decipher what I saw, a voice calls to me. It’s faint at first, but it becomes strong and I soon recognize who it belongs too…Mami Wata.

Orniainthi, come back.

Mami? Where are you?

Come back to us.

Where are you?

Frantic, I turn in the direction of where the voice comes from. I see no one and in a panic I call out.

Where are you?

Come back to us Orniainthi. You’re fading away.

Mami?

In the distance a figure emerges, beckoning me to come to it. Without my consent my body starts to move in the direction of where the figure looms. It’s as if I’m swayed or in a trance of some sort. I try to stop but my body keeps moving towards the figure. All the while, I hear Mami’s voice warning me.

Come back, don’t fade. Come back!

Mami help me!

Don’t fade away.

Help me!

The more I fight the more exhausted I get. So in defeat I give in and let myself draw nearer to the mysterious figure. I sense danger as I edge closer to them, but it’s too late. As the foul stench permeates my being, the figure grasps my neck.

He sneers as he squeezes my neck. I start to scream.

“Welcome to your worst nightmare child.”

It’s Galloway.

 

 

45

 

Galloway’s undergone a second transformation of sorts. His head’s bigger, he resembles more of a shark than he does a man. But his figure remains humanoid. He’s smellier than ever too.

Blood starts to run from my neck down my leg. Catching the scent Galloway’s eyes roll back in his head and he emotes a jarring howl. While I’m scared, I ignore my fear and attempt to fight back.

My futile attempts amuse my tormentor. He utters a grin, revealing his disgusting serrated teeth. A laugh escapes his mouth and surprise shows on my face.

“Ah, I see you still have some fight left in you. Good, you’ll need it for what comes next.”

“What happened to the Lusca?”

“Its dead. Your hydro spirit bomb saw to that. ‘Tis a pity, the creature was most useful to me.”

“Now it’s free of your control and madness.”

A glimmer escaped Galloway’s eye.

“Control is power. Madness is another way to see the world.”

“While what you say is true, one can choose how to wield them.”

“And I’ve chosen.”

“You’ve chosen badly.”

Enraged, Galloway roared, the sound of which deafened my ears. His grip on my neck turned tighter and I felt my eyes move a bit.

“Where are we?”

“On the edge of the ethereal plane. The boundary that separates it from our world. The Lusca was almost successful in removing it, but then you had to meddle.”

“It’s what we kids do.”

Galloway sneered as his claws sunk into my skin. I cried out in pain.

“Aaaaaaaaaah!”

He brought me closer to him, the pain became the lesser evil as the stinky perfume encapsulated me. The time had come for Galloway’s big finale.

“You’ll meddle no more child.”

Wide opened, he brought my head towards his mouth. It was just like the vision the dark water had brought me. Only this time, the ending would be starkly different.

Galloway was right, control is power. We’re in the ethereal plane, and he wasn’t the only one who had power here. Causing a distraction behind him, Galloway lost his focus. This gave me the room I needed and I head butted him.

His grip loosened and I gave him two energy bolts for good measure which allowed him to drop me and I tumbled to the ground. I rose as quick as I could and prepared for battle. Whatever happened here would have a profound effect on our physical bodies.

Recovering from my assault, Galloway forged two melee weapons. I followed suit using hydrokinesis to construct a sword and shield. Now ready for battle, we rushed towards each other and engaged in mortal combat.

The battle raged with neither one of us backing down. Our fight was brutal and it resonated throughout the ethereal plane. With each hit we both grew weary and as a result, our counterattacks became slower, slower and slower.

Soon our minds reached their breaking point and we both fell to our knees. Taking a breath and attempting to recover from the multiple poundings, each fighter gathered their strength and prepared for their final charge.

Galloway pursed his lips and then gave a sly smirk. “I’ll admit I didn’t foresee this. You have become a prominent foe. I apologize for ridiculing you.”

“I accept your apology.”

“Good. Now it’s time to die.”

“You ready old man?”

Galloway sputtered out a laugh.

“Oh yes.”

“Then let’s end this.”

In slow precise movements, we rose to our feet and moved into our attack poses. We circled, slowly moving closer and closer to each other. Galloway made his move first.

He laid a big blow to my face and I stumbled to the ground. Next he dragged me towards his big mouth that suddenly became bigger and bigger with each movement.

While my enemy was eager to get the kill, I remained patient and steadfast. As my body edged head first towards Galloway’s now enormous mouth I screamed and panicked, pretending that I’d lost. I’m waiting for the right moment.

Within seconds it arrived.

With only a few feet between my head and Galloway’s foul mouth, I made my move. Throughout our fight, I had increased increase the local specific density of ethereal water and then manipulated its shape into a fitting vessel that I could use to deliver the final blow.

On cloud nine, my foe wasn’t aware of my plan. Galloway’s mouth was wide open, but to make sure he didn’t come back to earth and close it, I kept it open.

My time on the ethereal plane had increased the level of my abilities. I was more powerful than I ever been. Galloway was right, he had underestimated me, and I had underestimated myself.

No longer.

I grasp the vessel and tossed it into Galloway’s mouth. This brought him out of his trance which also stopped him from dragging my body any further. He stood wide-eyed before me and since I prevented him from closing his mouth, he couldn’t swallow nor spit out the vessel.

He wasn’t powerless though. Galloway could still shoot energy bolts and he did so with great vigor. I dodged what I could and then took the rest for the team. His energy bolts obstructed my view for a bit but I soon got an opening and I took it.

Using my thumb and index as my gun, I blasted off an energy bolt. And as it zoomed towards the terrified Galloway, I shouted.

“Smile, you son of a bitch.”

BOOM!

All was silent as both Galloway and the ethereal plane dissipated. Tossed back into reality by the explosion, I caught sight of the now deceased Lusca’s body.

My energy sphere had obliterated the creature. What remained now mixed with the chum of dead humans or floated up towards the surface where the birds and other marine life feasted upon its flesh.

“Goodbye ancient one.”

As my body floated down into the deep, my eyes closed and I drifted off to sleep but not before I saw the face of Mami Wata hovering over me.

 

46

 

I don’t know how long I was asleep. When I woke, the goddess greeted me.

“Welcome back.”

“What happened? Where am I?”

“You’re back in my realm.”

“And my friends?”

“There.”

With her outstretched arm, she pointed to the right. A few feet away was the Graymalkin. My friends waved as Max gave me a rundown of their adventures.

 

My crew encountered an ambush when they left to aid the Darkhölme and the other surviving ships. Their attackers were navy ships answering Lt. Wellington’s distress call. The lieutenant tried to intervene but her superiors ignored her calls.

Instead, they announced their intent to sacrifice Lt. Wellington and her fellow survivors. The navy wanted to capture me and the Lusca. Angered at the betrayal, Lt. Wellington resigned from the navy. The other survivors followed suite.

The navy then fired upon the Darkhölme. As the ship incinerated, Mami Wata transported the survivors to the Graymalkin. She shielded them from the navy’s view.

When they navy turned their sights on our ship, the goddess returned it back to her realm. Grateful for a second chance at life, Lt. Wellington and her crewmates, joined our side.

 

 

Wow. I didn’t see that coming.

Right? It’s great though. We now have more crew and that ease the burden of running the ship.

Are they getting along with our crewmates?

They’ve settled into their new roles well.

What’s been said to the families?

Since the navy presumes them to be dead, they’ll stay that way. Wellington and co. sent final messages to their families. News reports stated that they died bravely fighting the monster. The navy’s awarded each survivor a posthumous purple heart.

It’s my fault.

Why do you say that V?

It’s because of me why they’re in this mess.

No, the blame lies at Galloway and the navy’s feet.

Many people died!

But many people are alive thanks to you, Viola. Death was coming either way. If you gave yourself up, more carnage might have ensued. Galloway might have won.

 

“The world’s still doomed.”

Mami Wata interrupted my conversation with Max.

“What do you mean? I thought I defeated Galloway.”

“You’ve only weakened him. The blue holes will revive him and his power will be infinite.”

“Then everything I’ve done was for nothing.”

“No there’s still hope. I have no choice. I wish it hadn’t come to this, but it’s for the greater good.

“What are you saying goddess? What are you going to do?”

Her brow furrowed.

“I will give you something that belongs. The question is can you withstand it?”

“I don’t understand goddess. What are you giving me?”

“A bauble containing my entire essence, a spirit bauble. It will fuse with your body. If and only if you survive the fusion, you’ll become more powerful, powerful enough to handle Galloway. In the end it’ll be up to both of you who lives and who dies. I’m giving you something that’ll put you on equal footing. You must use what you learned on the ethereal plane to defeat Galloway once and for all.”

“You said this spirit orb is the very essence of who you are.”

Mami nodded.

“Understand I have a dual nature, that’s why the orb’s red and white. The red represents my destructive qualities: death, destruction, maleness, heat, physicality, and power. The white represents my peaceful nature. Beauty, creation, femaleness, new life, spirituality, translucence, water and wealth. It also symbolizes death but not in the destructive manner of the red. Use both wisely when you fight. Do not let either part consume you, find the balance lest you and the world perish.”

“How bad is the fusion process? I take it’ll hurt.”

“It could tear you apart.”

“Like the dark water?”

Mami’s brow furrowed even deeper.

“Worse. There are no words to describe the agony your body will endure. Depending on your endurance the pain might last hours or days. If you can’t handle it, your body will burn away from the inside out. You’ll beg for a swift death.”

“Has anyone done this before and survived?”

“Three times I’ve offered my spirit bauble. Only once did the receiver survive… but that’s a story for another time and place.”

I took in everything the goddess told me and after a quick moment of reflection, I gave her my answer.

“I’ll do it. It’s our only chance to stop him. The only question I have is what will happen to you?”

Surprise took over Mami’s downtrodden expression. I wondered what part of my statement grabbed her attention. Reading my thoughts, the goddess replied.

“Whenever I’ve offered this gift, my wellbeing was never questioned, Orniainthi.”

“You’ve become a friend to me. And I care about my friends.”

“As I towards you.”

“So what will happen if I survive the merge?”

“Like the others, I’ll fade away and go where all gods go when they’re no longer needed.”

“And where do the gods go?”

“To an unknown place of a higher existence.”

“Will you-can you ever return?”

“Perhaps one day. But don’t concern yourself with that. We’re wasting the precious time we have. As of now Galloway’s in a severely weakened state thanks to your fight on the ethereal plane. It’ll take him a few days to recover and access the blue holes.”

“He’ll be in Devin and Nurse Hughes’ care. We need to find them.”

“Leave that to your friends, I’ll help them.”

“Thanks goddess.”

“Now you need to dig down deep to survive the fusion. Tell me when you’re ready.”

I took a few deep breaths and closed my eyes.

“Ready.”

Ejo moved from around Mami Wata as she withdrew the bauble from her chest and then inserted it into mine.

And that’s when the unfathomable pain began.

47

The goddess was right.

There no words that can explain the pain I endured when she thrusted her spirit bauble into my chest. I screamed through my mouth and my mind. Good thing the goddess transported me into a cave.

The place’s dark, ancient, and isolated. It reminded me of the cave Luke entered from The Empire Strikes Back. I had no idea whether it existed in Mami’s realm or in my world, most likely the cave existed in both.

A heavy sense of dread and terror emotes from the cave which didn’t help my condition. Rocks and dirt fell to the earth as my body fumbled around on the floor withering in extreme hardship. The only thing I sensed was the terror I endured. I never felt so much alone.

I punched the walls of the cave to relieve my suffering but that ended up being a failed cause. My body experienced every pain known to man and much more.

My screaming soon cost me my voice. And a thick dark film covered my eyes, leaving them to appear as black holes. Exhausted from the punching and my bloody hands, I passed out.

 

 

I awoke and found Ejo hovering over me. The concerned animal attempted to comfort me by placing a bowl of water directly in front of me. Mustering my remaining strength, I drew my mouth upon the bowl and drunk the water. Ejo made a sound resembling a groan. In a faint whisper, I thanked the creature for its kindness.

“I’m happy to see that you’re still alive.”

“Ejo you can talk!”

The snake shook its head in annoyance. “Humph, humans. Assuming they’re the only things that speak.”

“Sorry Ejo, I didn’t mean it that way. If you want the truth, I prefer talking to animals than humans most of the time.”

“I understand. But, that’s not why I’m here. The goddess sent me to check on you.”

“It’s been a struggle, but I’m not throwing the towel.”

“No one will shame you if you did.”

“I said what I said!”

Ejo nodded in agreement “As you wish.” He then disappeared and I was alone once more. My closed and I entered the void.

 

 

Blood came out of my mouth the next time I woke up, and I writhed on the floor. When you’re in pain, being awake sucks. There’s nothing to ease it which makes the whole mess suck even more.

In a fit of frustration, I willed myself up from the hard earthen floor. I took my bloodstained hands and hit the walls of the cave again in a fury. I begged for relief, but nothing came.

Punching the walls once again left me exhausted, and I collapsed to the floor in despair. As I lay there, the cave tormented me with illusions of grandeur and relief. More than once I reached out asking for mercy, but I received was laughter and disdain for my condition.

Soon distorted images of the people I’ve met throughout my ordeal appeared to taunt and tempt me. In spite of the pain and the ever growing need for relief, I resisted.

Then the goddess appeared.

 

“Are you real Mami? This isn’t another trick?”

“I’m here child.”

Child?

“I’m here to help you. Share your pain with me. Let me remove the bauble.”

“Thanks, but I can manage.”

“No. It’s too much for your body to take.”

I grimaced as my eyes locked onto the goddess.

“My body has taken a pounding in recent days, it can withstand this.”

“You’re delusional. You’re not well. Let me help child.”

Child? Where have I heard that word?

There was something off, something familiar…

“No means no goddess… or should I say Galloway!”

Maniacal laughter exited the fake god’s mouth as they showed their true self.

 

 

 

There he stood in reveling in his wretchedness and dreadfulness. My enemy sneered as he towered over me. Once again I smelt the rotting flesh emulating from his large mouth and once again I had enough of it.

“You’re not real, so get lost.”

“Oh but I am real. I’m the embodiment of what you fear.”

“I gather the cave empowers you, right?”

The grotesque apparition nodded in approval and admiration. “You’ve always been intelligent, I admire that. It’s one thing we have in common.”

“It’s the only thing we have in common creep.”

Shaking his head, Galloway laughed.

“Ah, but you’re mistaken child. There is another.”

“Do tell.”

“You hate failure.”

Damn.

My enemy had rubbed salt into my wound. The truth stung and Galloway knew it. He smirked as he basked in how his revelation wounded me.

I had never thought about it before. And as I laid there in the most extreme pain one could imagine, I gave Galloway’s words some thought.

It was true, I didn’t like to fail. Every time it happened, I got angry with myself. It didn’t matter that with each try I had given it everything I had, I always thought that I could do better. Perfectionism was a risk factor for someone who had social phobia. And though I never thought of myself as one, I was a perfectionist.

Because I dwelled on my failures, they followed me wherever I ventured to go. I made them personal. Each time I attempted something, they were right there casting doubt on what I set out to do…

“You’re right, I’m afraid. I can’t do this I can’t save the world. I’m not Orniainthi…”

“Yes, give in to your fear. Embrace it.”

I laid there giving into my failures as a black gooey substance started to overwhelm me. The dark water had returned and I was powerless to stop it.

 

48

 

My hands, what’s happening to them? As the dark water crept in, both of my hands faded away. Emptiness filled my heart and a sense of dread washed over me.

Your body’s burning away Orniainthi.

Mami? Is this a trick by Galloway?

No trick, I’m here now.

The goddess appeared before me and I knew in an instant. I sensed a warmness that was absent before, and hope entered my heart.

I keep failing Mami. Saving the world isn’t my vocation.

You’re afraid of failure.

I am.

But it’s okay to fail Orniainthi.

Why? Every time I try I fail. I’m tired of disappointment. I don’t want to disappoint anyone else. Someone else can have this burden.

Listen Viola and listen well. You’ve failed enough and beaten yourself up enough, don’t let anyone else to do it for you. If you don’t believe in yourself, then you fail. If you tried and failed, that’s okay but if you don’t try, you’ve given up. Nobody’s perfect not even the gods. Someone once told me to err is human, to forgive divine.

I told you.

Mami smiled as she touched my shoulder.

The path to success is never an easy one. There are many failures along the way. But ultimately you’ll get there. If you end your journey now if you choose the quick and easy path Galloway chose you’ll become lost like him. And you’ll never find your way. I understand. So what do you want to do?

Never give up, never surrender.

Huh?

Another saying I’ve learned. I will fight goddess.

Look at your hands Orniainthi!

I stared at my hands. The fading ceased and my hands were once again whole. Hope filled the emptiness, and the fear melted away. The dark water wrapped itself tighter, trying to choke the hope. But the it proved futile.

“I’m not afraid… not anymore!”

BOOM!

The blast destroyed the dark water, and I was free to Galloway’s dismay.

“Nooooo!”

“Oh yeah! Bitch I’m back, by popular demand!”

“How can this be? Your fear had a strangle hold on you!”

“Yes, I allowed my fear to control me, just as you have.”

Galloway scowled in defeat. It was his turn to have the truth flung at him.

“You’re afraid Galloway.”

“I fear nothing.”

“It’s okay to be afraid. I sense your pain, your regrets. You got secrets, dark terrible secrets. You’ve done horrible, terrible things.”

“You know nothing of which you speak!”

“Ah, I can see your secrets now. You hid them well, hoping no one would discover your failures, but I have.”

Galloway uttered unintelligible words.

“You must understand that it’s okay to fail.”

“Lies! Failure is weakness.”

“I don’t agree.”

“Then you will die.”

“Maybe, but I’ve got a fifty-fifty chance to live.”

Galloway sneered as he faded away. “We shall see Orniainthi, we shall see…”

 

 

The ordeal ended when Galloway’s apparition disappeared. In an instant I returned to Mami’s realm. I stood alongside the goddess as if I hadn’t left. She wasn’t surprised by my sudden reappearance, which surprised me.

“I knew you’d return.”

“You did?”

“I had hope.”

I smiled.

“Thanks for believing in me.”

“Thank you for giving me the chance to believe in something again, Viola.”

“Anytime.”

“How do you feel?”

“I’m ready to go, and I’m not going out without a fight.”

Mami sighed and appeared crestfallen. “Then it’s time we said our goodbyes.”

I pretended that I didn’t understand. “What do you mean?”

“The bauble I gave you carries my entire essence, remember? That means every single part of me is now part of you.”

“Meaning?”

“I can no longer exist on this plain, I must ascend to the unknown place of a higher existence.”

“We’ll we ever meet again?”

“Who knows? Perhaps one day, but don’t concern yourself with that now Orniainthi. The world needs you. It no longer needs me.”

“Mami-”

“I’ve kept my promise and done what I could to help. Now it’s up to you. Give it your all, leave nothing on the floor. Fight with everything you got.”

“I will. I promise.”

“There’s one thing I ask of you.”

“Anything.”

“Watch over my children. They’ll need someone who can be their champion. Someone who can help them resist and fight the oncoming problems on the horizon.”

“I’ll do it goddess.”

“Good. Thank you. Now I must go.”

“Thank you for everything.”

The goddess smiled one more time at me and then gave me a warm and hopeful hug. I returned her smile as I fought back the tears attempting to seep out of my eyelids. As she faded away, her realm faded with her.

“Goodbye Orniainthi.”

“Goodbye Mami Wata.”

With both the goddess and the realm gone, I found myself in a new location. I stood in front of a humongous blue hole.

“Well, well. It’s about time you showed!” Staring into the horizon, I noticed a boat floating in the middle of the blue hole. Two unnamed silhouettes stood out on the boat as it bobbed in the breeze. They belonged to Nurse Hughes, and Devin Strucker.

49

 

“Welcome Vee, or should I say Orniainthi. Welcome to Dean’s Blue Hole, the deepest salt water blue hole in the world!.” Devin shouted. As I stared at my former friend, I noticed how disheveled their presence was.

“Where’s Galloway?”

“Gone. Gone, gone, gone.”

Their mental state had deteriorated even further from our last meeting. “What do you mean Devin? Where’s your father?”

“He’s diving into the hole. Once healed he’ll be unstoppable, and the world will be ours.”

Why was I always once step behind everyone else? No time to dwell on that now. I needed to convince Devin to join forces and stop their father from destroying the world.

“Devin, listen, help me end this.”

“Why can’t you understand what we’re trying to do?”

“The consequences for your actions will be dire not only for the human race but earth itself!”

Having gotten their attention, I set my plan in motion.

“You’re wrong! When we’re finished, earth will become a better place for everyone. There will be peace!”

“Chaos will ensue! People will die!”

“Only a small fraction will give their lives so others can live.”

“Are you prepared to give your life to your father’s cause?”

“I am.”

“You’re prepared to die for someone who denied paternity only until he needed your help?”

Devin’s eyes widened at the revelation and for a moment they stood stunned. “How did you know?”

“During my battles with Galloway I learned his secrets. Don’t you get it? He’s using you! He had no intention of acknowledging you. When he gets what he wants, he’ll get rid of you as he’s gotten rid of everyone else who’ve cared for him.”

Devin tightened their fists. “No. No, I don’t trust you!”

“Ask him Devin! Ask him to tell you of your aunt’s death. We saw him murder Ms. Wade, I know he killed your mother.”

My former friend’s face turned pale. “What are you saying Viola? What the hell did you learn of my mother’s death?”

They paced back and forth along the deck. “No I won’t accept it. You’re lying! I can’t believe that you used my mother against me! How dare you!”

ZAP!

“Ugh!”

Nurse Hughes zapped me with an electric gun. But instead of stunning me, the weapon evaporated my entire person in an instant, like a phaser. Good thing that wasn’t me. After watching my demise, Nurse Hughes and Devin celebrated with a passionate kiss.

“Ahem.”

Enraged to see me alive and well, Nurse Hughes fired again. This time though she missed and with one blast I destroyed the weapon and took her left hand with it. To ease her pain, I knocked Nurse Hughes’ unconscious.

Devin let out an uncanny scream, one that I never wish to hear ever again.

 

“I’m so sorry Devin.”

“Oh, you’re sorry! You’re sorry, you’re sorry, you’re sorry, you’re sorry, you’re sorry!”

In a blink of an eye, I found myself crashing through the boat window as Devin yelled “Sorry my ass!”

To say Devin was livid at the site of their wounded lover, was a feeble attempt to describe their outrage. I’ve never seen Devin so filled with uncontrolled emotion as they were now. Angered at the betrayal of their father and their former friend, they lashed out in a fury. After so many years of bottling up their anger, disappointment, and sadness, it was now on full display.

I received a few severe cuts from the crash and as both of us tussled, bruises soon dotted both our bodies. We separated and stood up ready to go at it again. “Please stop and listen to me Devin. I don’t want to hurt you.”

“To late for that.” Their eyes were wild and aflame with hate. I was losing them to the darkness, just as their father before them.

“Ah you mean in a physical sense. Don’t worry Orniainthi, you won’t. I’ve gotten a few upgrades from my own god.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Come find out.”

Devin charged and I ran towards them. They punched and I evaded, surprised at the speed of it. As I returned the favor, Devin smirked 4as they grabbed my arm in midair. I starred at our arms in disbelief. They then tossed me aside like a rag doll and cackled. Devin’s new found strength and speed stunned me.

“How?”

“Take a wild guess?”

“Galloway?”

“That’s right! He gave me some of his power. That’s why you were able to defeat him before. He was only at fifty percent in power capacity when you fought. My father didn’t expect for you to become so strong so quick.”

Devin sneered as if they heard Ms. Wade’s name. “You impressed him.”

“Well it’s not mutual, there’s no need to jealous.”

“Oh but there is. You see, I’m his constant reminder of his failure of having the life he wanted. He loved my mother and he wanted to be with her, but his obsession to succeed at all costs drove him away. He descended into madness and convinced himself to destroy those he cherished.

Galloway killed my mother, he smothered her to death. He killed my aunt Eloise after he discovered that she helped raised me before and after my mother died. My aunt tried to keep me away from my father because of his madness and obsession.

Despite his love for her, he murdered Ms. Wade because she was keeping him from his goal. And though he’s promised to rid me of this afflicting plague, this inherited madness, he has yet to do it.

You were right, he doesn’t care for me or anybody. He’s too far gone. Been that way for a long time now, longer than I’ve been with him. All he cares for is his vision for the future.”

“If you understand that then let help me stop him.”

“No.”

“Why? I’m sorry for what you’ve been through. I get why you keep your emotions in check, why you kept people at a distance. Dev Galloway’s hurt you, so why not prevent him from hurting more people?”

“Because I don’t trust you!”

They swung at me once more and this time it landed.

BOMP!

“Because I’m the right person for the job not you!”

BAM!

“Because you have no understanding of what’s at stake!”

I blocked the next punch and landed one of my own. “Then why don’t you help me understand?”

BOFF!

“I DON’T FUCKING TRUST YOU!”

Tears left their eyes and ran down their cheeks. “I don’t trust myself.”

“Devin…”

The fight was over as quick as it began.

50

 

I held my former friend in my arms as they sat there sobbing. For a few moments, no words left either of our mouths. Finally, I spoke.

“Throughout our lives we’ve gotten hurt and as a result we’ve lashed out at people who genuinely cared for us. We lashed out at each other. We’ve lost trust.” The tears continued to flow as Devin listened intently to what I had to say. “But we can get it back.”

“How?”

“Take the time to get to know people. No point in rushing, every time we rush we get hurt. And when a good person comes along, we push them away. This takes time and effort.”

The tears stopped flowing as Devin stared into the horizon. “Vee, I’m sorry for lying to you. I’m sorry for making your life unbearable. Our relationship has changed forever it’ll never be the same.”

I smiled and brought Nurse Hughes near us. As I healed her hand, I mulled over what Devin said and responded in kind. “I’m sorry for hurting you by bringing up those awful memories. In a strange way you messing up my life brought me back to life. For years I lived as a former shell of myself, but now I’m fully alive. You’re right. Our relationship will never be the same. I don’t want it to be that way, do you?”

Devin stopped to consider for a moment and cracked a smile. “Nah. It wasn’t as exciting as now. Plus, that was fake in a way. We didn’t understand each other.”

“Do you believe we could ever be friends, Devin? I mean real ones?”

“One day maybe, but it’ll take time. Understand I still have my own plans for FUCA.”

“Understood, one day at a time.”

 

I laid a fully healed but still unconscious Nurse Hughes in Devin’s arms. Devin wrapped their arms around their lover.

“Will she be okay?”

“Yes, but she’ll need rest. I didn’t know you two were dating.”

“We’re married.”

My eyes widened. “Congrats! How long?”

“A year now. We’ve hidden our relationship for years now since many folks are so illogical on gender identity and how I identify myself. Aside from my mother and aunt, Adele’s the only person I’ve cared so much for. I couldn’t bear losing her.”

“If we don’t stop Galloway, you might.”

Devin nodded in agreement. “You’re right. I won’t stand in your way.”

They looked at their watch. “We have little time his restoration will be complete in five more minutes.”

“How deep do I have to go?”

“663 feet. That’s the deepest point of the hole. Visibility’s clean the whole way.”

“Right, I’ll head there now. And what of your madness?”

“Guess I have a handle on it. And with Adele at my side I’ll be okay.”

“You sure you don’t want the blue hole to heal you?”

“I’ve had enough of the blue holes to save me a lifetime.”

“Trust me, I understand.”

I stood up and prepared to dive.

“Good luck Orniainthi.”

“Thanks. Good luck to you to Devin.”

I plunged into the blue hole and left Devin and Adele behind on their boat. I dwelled on the new opportunity for a friendship that emerged. In spite of my qualms, I hoped it blossoms.

 

When I entered the blue crystalline hole, only two minutes remained. I needed to get to Galloway before he’s renewed. Diving deeper and deeper, I bore in mind what I had to lose if the monster won. I remembered of Max, Captain Ryan and our Graymalkin crew. The faces of Lt. Wellington and Captain Greene came into my mind, and so did Mami Wata’s and Ejo.

My thoughts renewed I focused even harder and swam faster. I reached the bottom of the dark blue hole and discovered my enemy.

His body’s encased in porous cocoon derived from the ancient hole’s sand and rock. Still unconscious, Galloway’s body continued to heal at an alarming rate. Time’s running out, I needed to do something.

But what?

I could take his life but was that the right thing to do? In that moment he was defenseless, and my life wasn’t in danger either. If I don’t take action, life as we know it ceases to exist. Thirty seconds left.

Think Vee, think. And be quick…

With time slipping away, I shot off a mid-level blast at the bubble, hoping to end the restoration. But I’m too late.

The blast evaporated before it even reached its target. Thanks in no part to a resounding shock wave. It was the result of Galloway emerging from his cocoon. Now restored, he was at his most powerful. And the only thing that stood in the way of this butterfly of chaos was me, Dr. Viola E. Foy aka Orniainthi.

 

“[_I am a sailor, you’re my first mate _
_We signed on together, we coupled our fate _
_Hauled up our anchor, determined not to fail _
_For the heart’s treasure, together we set sail _
_With no maps to guide us, we steered our own course _
_Rode out the storms when the winds were gale force _
_Sat out the doldrums in patience and hope _
_Working together, we learned how to cope. _
_Life is an ocean and love it a boat _
_In troubled waters it keeps us afloat _
_When we started the voyage there was just me and you _
_Now gathered round us we have our own crew _
_Together we’re in this relationship _
_We built it with care to last the whole trip _
_Our true destination’s not marked on any chart _
_We’re navigating the shores of the heart” _
__]

― Voyage (1989) by John McDermott

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VI

 

LOVE

 

51

 

His restoration gave Galloway a new look. He no longer appeared to be a gangly horrific humanoid shark. His gills, gray flesh, serrated teeth, webbed hands and feet remained intact. But his new form’s noble and god-like and more human in character.

A nose now replaced the obtrusive snout and he no longer bore a fin on his back. Instead, mid-length sliver hair. His height and weight stayed the same but his figure became more toned.

There’s an appealing quality to Galloway that wasn’t there in our last meeting. And that worried me. That and the enormous power I sensed coming from him.

“Ah my dear child.” He smirked at the irritation appearing on my face. The disgusting stench from his mouth disappeared. In fact, his breath’s both pleasing and relaxing to my mind and nose, which disturbed me even more.

“I trust Dr. Strucker gave you trouble. Is that why you’re late to our final meeting?”

“Yeah, we worked out a few things.”

Galloway shook his head, gleaming like Fabio as he did so. “A pity, I wanted them to rule at my side. You disposed of them, I assume?”

“No, they stepped aside, so I could put a stop to your plans.”

Despite his new image, Galloway’s infamous sneer returned with a vengeance. “Stupid child. They’re so much like their mother.”

“Is that why you denied them a father? Because Devin reminded you too much of the woman you loved? The woman you murdered in cold blood because she impeded your obsession?”

“I did what I needed to do to protect the sea and its inhabitants. My wife didn’t understand my vision! She became a distraction and hindered me from ascending to greatness.”

“And what of your sister Eloise? Another hindrance?”

Galloway sneered even harder. I sensed the darkness from my cave ordeal lurking in the shadows of the hole. “She betrayed me!”

“She helped raise the child you denied!”

“I helped her and instead of her showing appreciation, she did what I asked her not to do. It was a betrayal, a visceral betrayal.”

“So I take it you’re not going to resurrect her?”

“Oh I will, but she’ll be resurrected in my own image.”

“You’re mad!”

“We’ve gone over this before Orniainthi. Madness is something I embrace. It’s something I can comprehend, and with it I’ve ascended to greatness.”

“At great cost. You’ve lost everything because you gave into your fears. Your obsession drove you further and further away from those who loved you. It’s destroyed your family and consumed you, and now you will let it destroy the world.”

“Yes to build a better one.” The sneer disappeared from Galloway’s face and a grin appeared. Mami Wata was right, Galloway’s lost, and he’s not coming back. To save the world I have to kill one man. I had no choice.

“So you have no regrets, no remorse for the lives you’ve taken and the ones you’re about to destroy?”

“I did what needed doing. I’ve got work to do.”

“So do I.”

Galloway belted out a laugh. “Enough talk then. Let’s settle this.”

“Once and for all.”

And then our final battle began.

 

Our battle rattled the cave in such a tremendous way that I thought it would come crashing down upon us. Galloway’s attacks came at me with an increasing speed, but I handled every one of them. And he handled every one of mine.

We were on a level playing field power wise, just as the goddess said. It would be up to us to determine who would rise and who would fall. It was only a matter of time.

And the time was now.

After another wave of attacks, Galloway wiped his bloody mouth with the back of his hand. He had taken a chunk of flesh off my back. “I tire of this.”

“Me too.” I rubbed my wound. It stung but thanks to the blue hole, it was healing at a rapid rate. The healing water worked it’s magic and eliminated the poison from Galloway’s bite.

Our attacks had only brought us to a standstill. No one had gained an upper hand. We admired our awesome new power sets. But the stalemate became frustrating for both of us.

“There’s only one thing left to do child.”

“What’s that old man?”

His sneer reappeared and I answered it with a sly smirk. I took pleasure in knowing that calling him ‘old man’ irritated him just as much as when he called me ‘child’.

Galloway grated his teeth as he answered. “We must ascend into our godly forms. It’s the only way to finish meddlesome quarrel.”

So it had come to this.

My time on the ethereal plane gave me some insight. These forms gave us godhood, our most powerful forms. We would literally become gods. The downsides were that it was only for a short period of time, and afterwards, we would be severely weakened. Even more so than Galloway had been after our fight on the ethereal plane. Our strength would be that of puny mortals.

This was the only way to end for me to end this nightmare. It was risky but at this point I had nothing to lose. I nodded in agreement. “You’re right.”

Galloway gave a sly smile “Good let’s begin.” And that’s when all hell broke loose.

 

 

The mighty shockwave from Galloway’s aura left me plastered against the cave’s walls. His ascension into godhood was so quick, I had no time to react. Galloway’s transformation had turned him into a gigantic humanoid megalodon. He emerged from the blue hole and stomped around the outside of it as he laughed certain of his victory.

I got duped.

Galloway wanted me to agree to this. For him to bring about his new world, he needed to be this powerful. He had the upper hand, but for how long?

I peeled myself off the wall and let the cave heal me. As a porous cocoon encased my body, I dwelled on this newest failure. I needed guidance on how to stop this monster. “Mami I wish you were here.”

But I am here.

How?

You’ve got my essence within you. I’m a part of you now remember?

Yes… I remember now. Please help me. I need your guidance. How can I stop him? He’s all powerful.

With love.

Love?

Yes, love.

But how?

Believe in yourself, the answer will come. Remember I’m always with you.

Mami? Mami?

BOOSH!

My cocoon blasted opened and I emerged refreshed and renewed. Ready to do battle.

52

 

I didn’t know how to defeat Galloway but it had to do with love and believing in myself. The answer will come. I’m unable to dwell on it now, I had a humongous god monster to attack.

Taking a Wonder Woman leap, I jumped out of the hole and landed on Galloway’s head to get a view of the landscape.

The sky turned dark and dreary and the ocean churning in a moody direction.

The end of the world had arrived.

When I tried to jump and attack, I’m unable to move. Galloway’s hair entangled me and dark water emulated from the follicles and entered my body.

I’m stuck.

Galloway took in the scenery with glee. “Ah, isn’t it glorious? Gaze on what you once prized for soon it’ll be no more!”

ZWOOSH!

BOOM!

A rocket zoomed by Galloway’s face and blows up behind us. On the horizon, a fleet of navy ships headed towards us. They’re led by Devin’s ship and… the Graymalkin!

Vee! Can you hear me? Vee?

Max! Get out of here!

And leave Mr. Ripster here to destroy the world and you? Hell no!

Orniainthi can you stop my father?

Devin?

Can you or no?

I can I need a distraction.

Then that’s what we’ll be.

Thanks everyone.

Now go get him!

Once again death had come for me. This time I wasn’’t alone.

My allies did their best to inflict damage on Galloway, but it had little effect. He shielded himself from their attacks as we moved away from Dean’s Hole and headed farther out into the ocean. I held on for dear life on top of his head as he moved with ease through the waves.

Max! Fall back and help those who are in present danger. I got this. Thanks for the help.

Will do. We’ll come back for you.

I’ll be waiting.

I watched as the ships halted their pursuit. As we moved further away, they became dots on the ocean, but with my powerful eyesight I could see them.

We headed back towards the Tongue of the Ocean. As he walked Galloway created huge waves and storms that caused chaos for those who at sea. Land dwellers got affected by quakes, storms, cyclones, tsunamis and more.

“The cleansing has begun child.”

“I’m so thrilled.”

We had returned to the Tongue of the Ocean. As the chaos brewed around us, I remained stuck on Galloway’s head. We were in the eye of a self-made hurricane. Here where’s everything’s calm and bright, while our surroundings were chaotic and dreadful.

“We’re watching the end of the world and the start of a new one.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Get to the point. Why here old man?”

“For my plan to work child, I need to be in the middle of the three magical points of access.”

“Three points?”

“We’ve visited two of them already, the black hole and Dean’s Blue Hole.”

“What’s the third?”

“The Blue Hole National Park on Andros. The island has the highest concentration of Blue Holes in the world.”

“I thought the blue holes were places of healing and restoration, not transformation.”

“Ah but they are child. You misunderstand, I’m not transforming the whole, I’m restoring it.”

“Not if I can help it.”

“Eh?”

“I’m going to stop you before you even begin Galloway.”

He laughed and sneered. “Come now child, you’re not in a position to do such a thing. Your power’s nearly drained. Soon you’ll return to being the puny mortal that you once were.”

“That’s what you think.”

“It’s what I know. Stop pestering me. Embrace your failure.”

“It is you who needs to do the embracing. Aaah!”

Angered at my words, Galloway’s head trembled causing a spike in the dark water that entered my body. “I grow tired of your stubbornness child.”

“The feeling’s mutual old man.”

I sensed bitterness in his laugh. “How do you propose to defeat me? You’ve failed at every turn. You should have killed me in the hole when you had the chance but you didn’t.”

“Yes, I could have killed you. But that isn’t who I am or who I want to be.”

“Such a foolish child you are. Why can’t you understand? Caring for others is weakness.”

“No there’s strength in love and allowing yourself to be-.”

“There’s no place in life for being vulnerable, it’s a liability.”

“That’s true, sometimes you get hurt. Believe me I know that very well. Sometimes you don’t get hurt. And to not allow for that possibility is a liability.”

Galloway laughed again. “You say I’m lost. The truth is, it is you who’s lost, you and everyone else. But don’t worry child, I’ll help you see the light.”

Galloway’s hair follicles wrapped tighter around my body, encasing me in a tomb of sorts. The poison seeped through and pierced my every pore. I screamed in pain and anger.

Angry at myself for failing to see his trap. Because I didn’t want the world to end and my friends to die. I also didn’t want my last breath to be on top of this monster’s head.

And that’s when it came to me.

I embraced my failures, and forgave myself. I thought of Mami, Max, and my friends, and I allowed for love to enter. It entered my mind, body, and soul. It seeped out of my body and as I reached out and accessed all three magical points. And as the love destroyed the dark water tomb, reminding me of who I once was and still am.

Orniainthi, demi-goddess of the sea.

 

53

 

Freed from bondage, I disappeared off of Galloway’s head and reappeared right in front of his face. Though shocked, Galloway remained unimpressed with my efforts.

“Hmph. Go away child, I have god’s work to do.” He swatted me away and continued to cast his spell. This was his first mistake.

THUD!

I smiled as I landed on the grounds of the Blue Hole National Park. I stared off into the distance noticed Galloway still at work, focused on bringing his plan to fruition. He didn’t even notice me diving into one of the many blue holes. That was his second mistake.

Entering the blue hole was so refreshing and once healed I focused my energies into my godhood form.

Let’s get in formation.

With love, determination, and belief in myself, my restoration began. The power surging throughout my body was one I had not sensed earlier. I embraced it and grew, bigger and bigger until I was a giant. And that wasn’t everything. My feet transformed into a mermaid’s tale. I found myself topless, with only a snake wrapped around my breasts.

Hello Ejo.

Orniainthi.

You ready to kick this dude’s ass?

Been ready and willing.

Let’s go then.

We reappeared right between the chaos and the calm that brewed from Galloway’s meddling. “Time for us to do our own meddling.” Ejo moved from around my chest and attacked Galloway. Ejo broke through the shield and grabbed a whole of our enemy’s forehead. He sucked away the dark water that empowered Galloway.

“Aarggggh!” He roared as he flung Ejo away.

Ejo!

I’m okay.

Glad to hear it. Please help my friends.

And what will you do?

I’ll be fine, I know what I must do. Now go help them.

Ejo nodded and hurried off into the direction my friends had gone as fast as he could. I turned just in time to catch a snarling Galloway charging at me. “It’s just you and me now, Orniainthi.”

“You got that right.”

“I’ll waste no more time in carrying out your death.”

“Ah, but you will.”

He swung, and I faded out of striking range, reappearing behind him. In one swift motion, he turned, swung, and missed again. But Galloway kept up his attacks. Each attack became weaker and weaker. Soon Galloway stopped and pondered on a new approach.

“Do you know what a pain in the ass you are child?”

“I have a good idea old man.”

I smirked at my opponent, my attacks and defenses wore on him. Soon he wouldn’t be able to stay in his godly form. Things went according to plan, but I didn’t gloat.

Annoyed and frustrated Galloway bellowed. “Why didn’t you leave things alone? I hoped I’d persuade you to join me, but you in your stubbornness refused. Why don’t you give up, can’t you understand you’ve lost?”

I shook my head. “There’s too much at stake.” My body began to tremble. “So many people are counting on me and I refuse to let them down again when they need me most.” Something deep inside my spirit started to emulate throughout my entire body. And I started to glow. “I’ve been afraid my whole life, kept my head down and played it safe. But things have changed. I can’t just give in, I won’t back down.”

Instead of his usual sneer, Galloway smirked, which threw me off a bit. “Why are you smiling?” He then laughed. “What’s so funny?”

“Oh child, you think you’re something huh?” His infamous sneer returned. “You’re nothing but a distraction keeping me from reaching my goal… like the others.”

“The people who cared for you and loved you?”

“They didn’t love me!”

“Oh, but they did and still do. Let me share their love with you.” The glow illuminating from my body moved into my hands. It mesmerized Galloway as it formed in to a fiery ball that I then thrusted into his chest.

 

As my ‘gift’ entered my enemy’s heart, I watched as the ethereal blue flames engulfed his body. “You knew love once, but obsession blocked it from entering your heart. Now know it again.”

“Ugh…” Galloway’s eyes were now blue as the flames.

“Love is not a distraction. Real love has your back, it encourages but also lets you have it when you’re not in the right. Love accepts you for who you are, it doesn’t change or try to control you. It’ll try to steer you in the right direction but it lets you chose. Love hurts but it makes you feel so alive. Do you understand Galloway? Without love you won’t survive.”

“Ugh… NOOOOOOOO!”

BOOSH!

The flames consumed Galloway and his godly form was no more. His lifeless body sunk into the sea.

 

54

 

Still retaining my godhood, I returned to human size and dive into the ocean to retrieve Galloway. Ejo appeared and we both got Galloway before a shark tried to take a bite out of him.

We scolding the shark and shooed away. Once it left, I examined the man who nearly ended the world. Ejo wrapped around my chest as we examined Galloway.

“He’s near death. I must heal him.”

“Why not end his misery?”

“I can’t. He must have another chance to experience love.”

“What if he doesn’t want love?”

“That’ll be his choice. I have hope things will be different. Now it’s time to heal.”

I teleported back to Dean’s Hole. While Galloway rested on my lap, I started his healing. As he healed, Galloway returned to his human form. No longer disfigured or empowered with the magic of the black and blue holes.

With Galloway coming to, I teleported us off the coast of Paradise Island. I had instructed Devin to meet us there while I told my crew to wait not too far away in the open sea.

After Galloway’s defeat, the world returned to normal. With help from the blue holes, I healed the places hit by the onslaught of Galloway’s destruction. With the navy busy with cleanup and keeping the press off their and FUCA’s tails, I no interference.

While I waited for Devin, Galloway stirred and opened his eyes. “Ugh, what happened? Where am I?” “The world’s safe from your obsession and we’re off the coast of Paradise Island. We’re waiting for Devin to get here.”

“So you stopped me. I’m impressed Orniainthi.”

“Are you?”

“Yes, and you were right. I didn’t understand love.”

“Well now, you got a second chance at it.”

“What will happen to me?”

“That’s up to you. I’m turning you over to your child. They’ll take care of you. Devin loves you and wants to help. Aside from Adele, you’re the only family they’ve got.”

“Yes, they are… God what have I done? I’ve destroyed everything.” Galloway bowed his head in despair.

“Not everything. You can restore them, but it’ll take time.”

For the first time since we met, hope sprung into Galloway’s eyes. “Twice I’ve lost the love of my life. I won’t do it a third time.”

“Good. Speaking of love, there’s someone who wants to speak to you.”

“Who?”

I closed my eyes, reached into my spirit. Then she spoke through me.

Wendell.

Mami!

How I’ve missed you my love.

Oh Mami, forgive me. I’ve lost you forever.

No Wendell, you haven’t.

What do you mean?

I’ll always be with you, in your heart. One day we’ll meet again. Just keep your heart open.

I will, I promise!

I love you Wendell now and forevermore.

Mami you’ll be in my heart. Always.

Now sleep my love, regain your strength. We’ll be together soon.

Mami…

When I opened my eyes, Galloway lay fast asleep a few feet away. My tail had disappeared along with my godhood and my webbed feet returned. Ejo disappeared as well, but I felt both his and Mami’s presence.

When I opened my eyes, Galloway lay fast asleep a few feet away. Ejo was gone. My tail had disappeared along with my godhood and my webbed feet returned. My hair styled itself into a growing fro as it the wind dried it.

 



At sundown, Devin and Nurse Hughes arrived at our designated meeting place. I handed Galloway over to Devin and inquired his fate. “What will happen to him?”

“He’s my father. I’ll care for him and help him find his way again. He and he alone will choose what his fate will be.”

“And what of FUCA?”

“FUCA will be under my control. It’ll do my bidding.”

“Which is?”

Devin grinned a sly smile. “You’ll know soon enough.”

I sighed in disappointment. “And here I was hoping for us to be friends.”

“It’s still a possibility. But understand this Vee: if you get in my way, I’ll hunt you down. Understood?”

I glared at my frenemy. “Crystal. But understand this: if your plans are nefarious in any way, I’ll hunt you down and stop you, every time. You savvy that?”

Devin nodded. “I’m glad we understand each other. It appears our fates are unescapable.”

“Guess so.”

“Till we meet again Dr. Foy.”

“Till we meet again.”

Devin and Nurse Hughes took Galloway and returned to their ship. I watched them sail away under the moonlight. Once they were out of sight, I returned to the Graymalkin happy to reunite with my lover and crew.

But I felt both his and Mami’s presence. “Thank you, goddess…”

 

55

 

“Hey everyone.” My presence on the bridge took everyone by surprise.

“Great Caesar’s ghost!” Jesse greeted me a great big bear hug as I stepped onto the bridge.

“Jesse give her a break will ya? She’s been through hell and high water.” Captain Ryan walked over, Lt. Wellington at her side.

“All right, all right. Welcome back, doc.”

“Thanks Jess.”

“Welcome aboard doctor. We’re glad to see you return safe and sound.”

“Thank you cap. It’s great to be back.”

Lt. Wellington stepped up and gave me a salute. “Dr. Foy.”

“Lieutenant.”

“Thanks for everything.”

“Thanks for giving me and my friends a chance. How’s Captain Greene?”

Lt. Wellington stood downcast. “He’s dead. His injuries were too much.”

I shook in anger. “Dammit. If I could have been here sooner…”

“Don’t.” Lt. Wellington placed a hand on my shoulder. “Don’t blame yourself. You did everything you could.”

“And it wasn’t enough.”

“Look around you doctor! You saved us, you saved the world. Captain Greene knew the risks. He fought hard and died doing what he always did.”

“He prepared for the worse and hoped for the best. We must continue to do that. Galloway’s no longer a danger, but Dr. Strucker and their plans for FUCA is an unknown.”

Lt. Wellington nodded. “Don’t forget the navy.”

“Right…”

“We can dwell on that later. We’ve got a meeting to attend.”

“Oh?”

“Captain Ryan’s called a meeting in the galley.”

“Guess they’re waiting on us. Let’s go.”

“Surprise!”

Lt. Wellington and the rest of our crew had planned a surprise party for me. Captain Ryan led the crew in a toast. “To Dr. Foy a true hero.”

“Here, here!”

I gave a toast in return. “Here’s to you, the crew of the Graymalkin. Thank you for your friendship. And to everyone that we’ve lost: Lt. Wellington’s crew mates, Captain Greene, and Mami Wata. You’ll be miss but not forgotten.”

“To the fallen.”

 

With the party under way, I chatted with each of my crewmates and got acquainted with Lt. Wellington’s crew. After making the rounds, I headed over to Max. He got stuck in a discussion with Private Elkins and Lt. McCay.

“Excuse me, may I speak with you a minute Max?”

“Yeah sure.”

Enthusiastic to get away, Max followed me in a hurry as we exited the galley and made our way to my quarters. We stood staring at each other for a few minutes saying nothing.

Then our hands touched each other’s faces and caressed our bodies. Embracing, we shared a passionate kiss and then tumbled onto the bed where we made love until the early morn.

 

56

 

It’s been a month since our adventures in the Bahamas. The incidents disappeared off the evening news. The navy and FUCA saw to that.

Devin remains in charge of FUCA, they’re working on rebranding the company in a new light. Nurse Hughes fabricated a story of Ms. Kellie Wade being an abusive caretaker. This placed Devin in charge of the company. Sometimes old wounds never heal.

They continue to take care of their father Galloway. He remains out of the public eye but hopes to return soon. Nurse Hughes and Devin’s marriage continues to be a secret to the public.

My Gramalkin crew and I stay fugitives to both the navy and FUCA. Despite our reported ‘deaths’, we keep limited contact with our families and friends as we live off the grid. Right now we’re taking a break from the sub. Mami’s realm now belongs and I’ve hidden the submarine there while we break.

Max and I got to have our dinner date. We’re still together going strong. It’s great being with someone who cares for me and shows it rather than just tell. Our connection remains strong.

Mami Wata hasn’t returned yet. Whenever I wander through my realm I try to communicate with her, using Ejo as a conduit. Nothing’s come of it yet. Maybe one day soon…

You wanted to see me cap?

Yes, I hate to disrupt your much deserved vacation. Lt. Wellington has something important to discuss with you.

All right, can you bring her here?

Sure, tell me where ‘here’ is.

The Westfjords, Iceland.

We’ll be there as soon as we can.

We’ll be on the lookout, stay safe.

“What’s going on, baby?”

Max and I had finished our dive in the Skötufjörður fjord were packing up our equipment. After everything I’ve been through, it was important for me to return to this place. Max supported my decision to confront the place where the incident took eight years of my life away.

Though I didn’t need them, I used the diving equipment and breathe through my lungs instead of my gills. In spite of Max’s protest, I dived into the water by myself first.

At first I became overwhelmed and nearly experienced another panic attack. But by using the breathing techniques, I kept calm, and I had a wonderful time diving. I returned to the surface lighter than when I dove in as my burden dropped off of me and sunk deep into the sea.

Afterwards, I dove in again, minus the equipment and Max came along for the ride. We had a good time until Captain Ryan came a calling.

“Don’t know the details yet, but Lt. Wellington has important information for me. She says it’s a data file from Captain Greene.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah it’s got something to do with FUCA and a secret weapon in the deep ocean off the coast of Murmansk, Russia.”

“I’ve heard of that place. I read an article on the strange and spooky looking creatures that live there in the deep ocean.”

Max shook in horror. I responded in kind. “I’ve read that article. The pictures gave me a nightmare, and that was in the daytime.”

“Welp, guess our vacation time has come to an end.”

“Not yet, it’ll take them a few hours to get here.”

Max grinned. “Want to head back to the cabin for couple of hours of love making?”

I grinned back. “You read my mind. Let’s go.”

“What no teleportation?”

“You’re spoiled. Besides, why teleport when we can enjoy a nice romantic hike.”

“Good point.”

We shared a deep kiss and Max started to led the way back to the cabin. I held back for a moment. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, just wanted to take get a last look at this place since we won’t be here for a while. You go on ahead I’ll catch up with you.”

“Okay.”

Starring out into the sea I pulled out the crumbled picture of my uncle and I at the beach in St. Thomas. We’ve gotten to understand the sea well haven’t we Vee?

I gazed out into the horizon one last time and folded the picture and returned it to the pocket of my jacket. It was one of the few memories of my former life I had left and I didn’t want to forget. But as I stood looking out at the sea, I’m reassured that I won’t forget.

I caught up with Max and as we hiked we reminisced on our recent adventures and wondered what awaited us in Russia. The responsibility I bore weighed on me. The deeper I plunge myself into this situation, the more entangled I become in its web. There are so many mysteries to unravel, and it’s overwhelming. Though I want to walk away, I can’t. I just got to keep swimming until I come to the end…

 

 

FIN.

  • ORNIAINTHI PLAYLIST*

 

#
p<>{color:#000;}. California Love- 2pac, Dr. Dre, Roger

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Under the Sea- Samuel E. Wright

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Orinoco Flow- Enya

#
p<>{color:#000;}. My Wave- Soundgarden  

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Ocean Drive West Coast Mix- Madison Park

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Wishing Well blink-182

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Dive- DC Talk

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Surf- The Skins

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Heroes- David Bowie

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Oceans- Pearl Jam

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi- Radiohead

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Yellow Submarine- The Beatles

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Ocean Man- Ween

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Life Is Like A Boat- Yuko Koura

#
p<>{color:#000;}. This Is Home- Switchfoot

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Mermaid In the Night- Jimmy Buffet

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Octopus Garden- The Beatles

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Shark Attack- John Williams

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Santa Monica- Everclear

#
p<>{color:#000;}. The Storms Are On The Ocean- June Carter Cash

#
p<>{color:#000;}. The Shadow Proves The Sunshine- Switchfoot

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Ready to Go- Republica

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Love- Sixpence None The Richer

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Mornings by the Seaside- Relaxing Music Therapy

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Beyond the Sea-Bobby Darin

#
p<>{color:#000;}. The Girl and the Sea- The Presets

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Voyage- John McDermott

ACKNOWLEGEMENTS

 

Mom:

Thank you for always being there for me. I admire your strength, courage, kindness, love, and perseverance. You have always believed in your children, even when we didn’t believe in ourselves. We’ve had a rough time but I know that our best days are ahead of us. I love you and I appreciate everything that you’ve done to make my life better. If I do have kids, I hope I’m just as good a mom as you have been to me.

Dorothy:

I’m lucky to have an amazing sister. You’re smart, beautiful, and funny. I admire your kindness and thoughtfulness for others and your sharp wit. I love you very much. Thank you for your support.

 

Ocean explorers of the past, present, and future:

Your adventures, discoveries, and contributions have a vital impact on the world. You’ve opened the minds of so many, including this wannabe mermaid.

 

-T.C.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

T.C. Harrison is a writer originally from Eureka, California presently residing in Central Florida who writes about music, poetry, comics, anime, TV, movies, writing, fashion, food, love, life, & wherever their imagination takes them. They continue to work on poems and stories that they hope to publish.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @Musingsofablerd

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/themusingsofablerd/

Tumblr: themusingsofablerd.tumblr.com

 

 

ALSO BY T.C. HARRISON

 

Novellas & Novels

I, Darcy, Self-published, 2017

 

Short Stories

“Uirusu”, The Sirens Call eZine, August 2014 Issue #16 Apocalyptic Fiction

 

Where My Imagination Takes Me A Collection of Short Stories and Flash Fiction, Self-published, 2014 & 2017

 

Poetry

The April Fool: NaPoWriMo 2016, Self-published, 2016

 

The Unconsciousness of an Ethiopian Princess: Musings of a Blerd (Vol. 3), Self-published, 2015

 

April Showers Always Bring Musical Flowers: NaPoWriMo 2015, Self-published, 2015

 

Poesy Rainbow: NaPoWriMo 2014, Self-published, 2014

 

The Unconsciousness of an Ethiopian Princess To Know And Love Thyself (Vol. 2), Self-published, 2014

 

The Unconsciousness of an Ethiopian Princess College Days of Future Past (Vol.1), Self-published, 2013

 

Comics

“The Musical Mechanism”, Grayhaven Comics

The Gathering Anthology: Time Travel/Faith, 2014

 

“Tzedek: The Forgotten Ones,” Grayhaven Comics

The Gathering Anthology: Crime, 2013

 

“Willehmina Kings of Thieves: Never a Dull Moment,” Grayhaven Comics The Gathering Anthology: All Women 2, 2013

 

Defect: Light to Combat the Darkness,” Womanthology: Heroic, IDW 2012

 

“June,” Womanthology: Valentine’s Day Special, Golden Gate Studios, 2012

 

“Don’t Let the Light Go Out,” Womanthology: Holiday PDF, Golden Gate Studios, 2011

 

Journals, Articles, & Essays

“New Possibilities and Partnerships: How Superman Partnered Academics and Comics at Seminole State College Library,” Florida Libraries Journal, Florida Libraries Association, Fall 2013

 

 

PHOTO ATTRIBUTION

 

Cover

Photo 1: Ocean background https://www.pexels.com/photo/underwater-blue-ocean-sea-9149/ CC0 License (Free for commercial use, no attribution required)

Photo 2: Submarine

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Virginia_class_submarine.jpg Public Domain

Photos 3 & 4: Mermaid and Octopus tentacles

Created by T.C. Harrison using Hero Machine 3 http://www.heromachine.com/heromachine-3-lab/

 

Pictograph used for text break

Mermaid Silhouette Sea

https://pixabay.com/en/mermaid-silhouette-sea-1563578/

by Pixbay user Mel—123

CC0 Public Domain (Free for commercial use 
No attribution required) 

 

QUOTE ATTRIBUTION

 

Quotes by Nnedi Okorafor and George Fox from BrainyQuote.com

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/ocean.html

 

All other quotes from Goodreads.com

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/ocean?page=1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Orniainthi

During a dive, a massive panic attack sidelines oceanographer Dr. Viola E. Foy to her desk for eight years. An urgent call from college friend Dr. Devin Strucker marks her return to the ocean. The expedition starts off well, with Foy's research aiding the team. But appearances are deceiving. She's betrayed and forced to dive illegally into Andros Island's mysterious Black Hole. There an accident transforms Dr. Foy into a mermaid. Her newfound powers and abilities cause her to become a target for FUCA and the US Navy. More adversity arrives when FUCA's CEO Wendell Normand Galloway re-emerges from seclusion. His plans include the unleashing of an ancient sea monster and threaten to doom the world to a watery grave. Can Dr. Foy harness her new abilities, avoid capture and save the world in time?

  • ISBN: 9781370464395
  • Author: T.C. Harrison
  • Published: 2017-02-08 20:35:31
  • Words: 47485
Orniainthi Orniainthi